Western Pain 
Medicine Program - The Problem of Pain

Pain is the most common reason people seek medical attention. Everyone hopes that the underlying cause will be found, the correct treatment provided and the pain will go away. Unfortunately, with many conditions, as with chronic non-cancer pain or cancer pain, the cause usually cannot be eradicated and we cannot eliminate the pain entirely. However we can usually make the pain tolerable so that individuals can get on with their lives.

Chronic pain affects approximately 25% of the Canadian adult population, rising to 50% in the elderly. About 75% of patients with advanced cancer have significant pain due to destruction of bones and nerves but fortunately we are usually able to provide good pain control in this population. Ongoing pain affects the physical, emotional, and psycho-social well- being of individuals, and their families. Society suffers too with loss in work productivity, in disability support, and in health care dollars. The economic loss in Canada due to chronic pain is in the range of 5-6 billion dollars per year.

Even patients undergoing surgery who know their acute pain will resolve over 4-6 weeks report high levels of pain in the two weeks after their surgery whether they are in-hospital or at home. Studies show that high levels of pain following surgery or a trauma not only contributes to the development of chronic pain but can increase the chances of a heart attack, or infection. Yet, the knowledge exists to provide safe and effective pain relief to almost all who suffer with acute pain and 90% of those experiencing chronic cancer or non-cancer pain.

We still don't know for certain why some acute pain problems become chronic, and life-altering. Yet we are much closer to knowing the answer than 20 years ago. There has been an explosion in scientific knowledge uncovering the changes that occur in the nervous system when an individual develops acute pain and when it becomes chronic (lasting over three months). There is still a great deal of research to be done to develop safe, effective and affordable clinical treatments. The other major goal is to find ways to allow all Canadians to have access to these treatments.

The treatments offered at the St Joseph's Pain Clinic are similar to other multidisciplinary pain clinics and include:

  • Education-acceptance, pacing, relaxation strategies
  • Physiotherapy
  • Pain-relieving Medications. There are many different classes of drugs used, not just narcotics.
  • Nerve Blocks, trigger points injections. Some of these need to be done under ultra-sound or fluoroscopy(X-ray) guidance.

Please visit the Canadian Pain Coalition's web site: www.canadianpaincoalition.ca

Geoff Bellingham
  • Geoff Bellingham MD