Millions of Canadians live with chronic pain of some kind, yet it is one of the most invisible, under-treated and disbelieved afflictions in the country. For Canada, the cost is billions of dollars a year; for the people who live with chronic pain, the costs are much more dear - careers, friends, marriages, even their lives.
Yet despite the burden of suffering, pain is poorly treated in Canada. Sometimes it is not treated at all. "You can do a lot with what's available now, but most people don't get it," says Dr. Catherine Bushnell, Canada Research Chair in clinical pain [at McGill] and president of the Canadian Pain Society.
Experts blame the meagre training health professionals receive on assessing and managing pain (a survey of 10 major Canadian universities found that veterinary medicine students receive, on average, 87 hours of mandatory training in pain, versus 16 hours, on average, for medical students); inadequate funding for research (just one-quarter of one per cent cent of all federal dollars for health research in Canada go to pain); a health system that doesn't compensate doctors for the time it takes to provide meaningful pain care ("We take up too much time," pain patients say over and over again), stigmatization and attitudes toward people with pain, and a strong reluctance to prescribe opioids for chronic non-cancer pain.