Millions of people live with chronic pain and in some cases it is persistent. The aim of Pain Awareness Month is to make the public aware of the prevalence of pain, how to deal with it, and to ask stakeholders in different sectors to make decisions in their spheres to effect policies that can make a difference in better pain management. The U.S. Pain Foundation reports that the impact is felt by the more than 51.6 million Americans living with chronic pain. This month people and organisations raise public awareness around pain and pain management. Pain Awareness Month is observed every September.
Palliative care is used to manage a disease or medical condition that is serious or life-threatening by easing pain and other associated physical, emotional, or psychosocial symptoms. Everyone’s experience of pain is different. Some people will feel worried and distressed by the idea of experiencing pain at the end of their lives. Pain is a sensory, subjective, and emotional experience. Pain is what the patient says it is. It’s important to acknowledge the person’s pain and not dismiss how they say they’re feeling.
There are different painkillers (analgesics) and non-drug techniques available and most patients’ pain can be managed well. Opioids like morphine work for most people with moderate to severe pain but not all types of pain. Pain is common in advanced and progressive disease. Up to 80% of people with cancer experience pain that may need a strong opioid. Strong opioids, especially morphine, are the principal treatments for pain related to advanced and progressive disease but their use in chronic pain is controversial. The use of opioids has had a major impact on the management of pain in patients with advanced disease, yet pain can still be managed poorly.
Unnecessarily restrictive regulations for morphine and other essential controlled palliative medicines deny access to adequate palliative care. Opioids are an essential part of the pharmacological options required to address suffering by helping to relieve the pain and chronic breathlessness that may be experienced by someone with a life-limiting illness.
Morphine has long been a front-line treatment for pain, easing end-of-life transitions in palliative care and helping people undergoing medical emergencies, surgeries, and chronic conditions. But the vital medicine is unequally distributed worldwide WHO says in a report. Millions of people continue to suffer preventable pain. It’s one of the oldest and least expensive opioids but nonetheless is used more in higher-income countries. In contrast, lower-income countries face severe shortages because of irregular supply, local policies, lack of providers, and stigma.
The WHO recently held webinars on access to medical morphine. You can access the slides HERE. You can also find the report Left Behind in Pain and three short films on this webpage. According to an article in The Guardian, the poorest countries receive less than 1% of the global morphine supply, despite having 50% of the world’s population. Prevention is generally considered the keystone of public health, but we cannot morally continue to ignore those who are already suffering. While pain has neither a viral internet challenge to raise awareness nor a celebrity ambassador, layering pain treatment onto any evolving health care system no matter the disease is as vital and reachable a goal as any.