2020: A Year of Pain, Suffering and Change

Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year from all of us at the Integrative Pain Science Institute.

The year 2020 will go down in history as a time of massive social change. For some, these changes presented opportunities (eg, increased time with family, flexible working, and reduced demand for travel). For others, however, these social changes represented a significant threat to health and wellbeing.

This year deepened our resolve for effective pain care.

Although pain treatment is a fundamental human right, the pandemic forced healthcare systems to redistribute resources toward intensive care units. Most chronic pain services were subsequently deemed “non-urgent” and all outpatient and elective interventional procedures had been reduced in order to reduce viral spread. The shutdown of pain services jointly with the home lockdowns has affected the delivery of pain care.

Early 2020 data points toward an increased prevalence of pain.

A recent editorial review in the Journal of Pain reported an increase in chronic pain is likely due to the exacerbation of risk factors such as poor sleep, poor nutrition, inactivity, fear, anxiety, and depression. There are also reports of a painful neurogenic post-viral syndrome and the worsening of chronic pain due to exacerbation of preexisting physical or mental complaints.

Data regarding the opioid epidemic.

A September 18th editorial in the Journal of the American Medical Association noted disruptions in health care and social safety nets combined with social and economic stressors fueled the opioid epidemic. According to the Centers for Disease Control over 81,000 drug overdose deaths occurred in the United States in the 12 months ending in May 2020, the highest number of overdose deaths ever recorded in a 12-month period.

Silver linings appeared amid the crisis.

It’s difficult to see a potential silver lining however there was potential good that came out of this unprecedented time. This included a return to a slower pace of living, less pollution and improvements in the environment, mindfulness, work-life balance, home cooked meals, time to reflect upon what is truly important, and the expansion of tele-health.

Ultimately the silver lining will be defined in how we rise!

How thoughtfully we approach those suffering. How well we choose the right response versus the seemingly expedient or profitable responses.

Social and health disparities front and center in the media.

This year the ever present and known individual differences in pain associated with social identities, including sex, ethnicity, and age were center stage. These social inequalities and biases, can affect the burden of pain and access to care. The concern is that those who are disadvantaged and marginalized will be most likely exposed to the hazard, most susceptible to harm, and most likely to experience negative outcomes and increased pain and suffering.

The rise of diversity, equity, and inclusion in healthcare.

Diversity, equity, and inclusion in healthcare is a topic that has received little attention in professional training and continuing education. Yet this knowledge helps professionals improve the delivery of compassionate pain care. We live in a world where we need to share responsibility and support those less fortunate.

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Please accept this gift of a FREE 2 credit course on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Pain Care.

This is a resource-based course which includes content on topics such as socioeconomic status and pain; racial bias in pain assessment and research; LGBT health and disparities; women and pain care; bias in psychological research; bias in nutrition research, and more…

Throughout 2020 we will continue to curate useful and impactful pain education for your ongoing professional development and raise awareness towards safe and effective pain care.

We appreciate your support and cherish your participation in our global community.

May you be healthy and happy in 2021.

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