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It’s National Pain Awareness Week

November 5, 2018

By Asra Lovelace

This week from November 5 to 9, Women’s College Hospital (WCH) and the Toronto Academic Pain Medicine Institute (TAPMI) are marking National Pain Awareness Week. It’s estimated that one in five Canadians experience chronic pain, resulting in healthcare costs of more than $6 billion per year.

But what is chronic pain? The definition can be very broad—generally it is considered any pain lasting for more than three months. Chronic pain can persist after an injury or illness has healed but the pain signals remain active in the nervous system for months or even years.

Over the past two decades, the use of opioids for chronic pain has dramatically increased and Canada is in the midst of an opioid crisis. While opioids are most effective when prescribed to manage acute pain, such as pain following surgery, injury, or from disease, there is little evidence to support the use of opioids in chronic pain.

“Research says that the maximum amount of pain relief from opioids may only be up 30 percent and it carries significant risks, including overdose deaths,” says Dr. Tania Di Renna, medical director of TAPMI. “There is evidence indicating that better outcomes are achieved when chronic pain patients are treated using a biopsychosocial model of care—a multidisciplinary treatment plan that includes exercise, cognitive behavioural therapy and medication management.”

However, treating patients in the biopsychosocial model requires a wide range of programs and services to help patients in pain function. In response to this need, five major pain centres in downtown Toronto partnered to create TAPMI. Through the TAPMI program, patients can access an interdisciplinary team of chiropractors, doctors, nurses, occupational therapists, pharmacists, physiotherapists, psychologists and social workers.

The TAPMI Hub at WCH manages the central referral process to ensure patients get to the right healthcare practitioner the first time. WCH is also proud to offer a variety of interdisciplinary treatment options that address each of the biopsychosocial aspects of pain, including cognitive behavioural therapy, exercise therapy and self-management.

As part of Pain Awareness Week, there will be several opportunities to learn more about TAPMI and chronic pain:

Atrium Booth

To learn more about the TAPMI program and chronic pain, please visit our booth in the Peter Gilgan Atrium on Wednesday, November 7 from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Facebook Live

Join Dr. Tania Di Renna for a Facebook Live on November 7 at 10 a.m. as she answers frequently asked questions on chronic pain.


A TAPMI patient’s journey with chronic pain

In many ways, Gregory Morris is your average Ontarian. He is a manager at a local coffee chain, helping the people of Toronto get their days started with a hot cup of coffee every morning. However, Gregory has been living with chronic back pain for the last 12 years, which had been getting progressively worse. The constant dull pain and tension in his back made everyday movements like standing, bending and squatting a challenge. In the beginning, Gregory was able to work through the pain, completing eight-hour shifts at the coffee shop on his feet. As time passed, the pain prevented him from doing his job and he was forced to go on disability. The pain also had an impact on his life at home—he was no longer able to leave the house and his family was forced to travel to him, putting a strain on their relationships.

Over the years, Gregory worked closely with his family doctor and tried a number of different medications, none of which showed any improvement in his pain levels or his ability to function. Finally, one of his specialists referred him to TAPMI.

At TAPMI, Gregory attended a group education session that explained how and why people experience pain and taught him strategies on how to minimize the impact of pain on his life.

Gregory worked with Karen Ng, a pharmacist at TAPMI, on an individual basis to discuss his medications and make a plan with his family doctor to modify his treatment to achieve better pain relief. Additionally, Gregory met with the TAPMI psychologist and enrolled in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. 

“The health professionals at TAPMI were very helpful,” says Gregory. “I learned about the sources of pain in my body and how to manage it. What I found particularly interesting is how Cognitive Behavioural Therapy techniques can improve pain, and how mind over mood really works. I am optimistic about managing my pain on my own moving forward.”

Since being treated at TAPMI, Gregory is working on changing careers to one that is less physically demanding so he can get back to work. His relationships with his family are also improving as he is able to spend more time with his sisters, mother, five children and two great-grandchildren.

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