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Arthritis and You 2020

Why pain is important

iStock / Getty Images Plus / Denis_Vermenko

Sue Brown

Chief Executive, Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Alliance

Pain from musculoskeletal conditions like back pain affects millions of people in the UK. It can be life changing. What can be done?

There is a vast range of musculoskeletal conditions (like back pain and arthritis) and one thing they have in common is pain. People with these conditions often say that it is the pain, rather than the condition itself, which has the biggest impact. To live a full and active life it is essential to address this and help people find ways to manage their pain.

People with pain need support

During lockdown, many people lost a lot of the support and treatment they relied on. Operations were cancelled; physiotherapy services would see only urgent and emergency cases; osteopaths, chiropractors, Pilates and yoga classes shut; swimming pools and gyms closed.

We are now beginning to open up health services again. In allocating who is prioritised for treatment, it is important that we don’t downplay the impact of pain. The difficult reality is that it will take a long time for services to catch up. Meanwhile, people waiting in pain need support and to know what they should be doing while they wait. They need empathy for how devastating it is to be told you must live with this for months longer. Communication is key – no one should be waiting in pain without know what is happening and how long they may have to wait.

What can help pain?

If you are experiencing pain from a musculoskeletal condition, has all kinds of resources, organised according to the body part that hurts.

Don’t stop doing things – that will make the pain worse in the long run. If you can, stay in work. Reach out to others – talking to people in the same position is a really effective way to get support. Many ARMA member organisations[ have resources, groups and services that can help and there will be one that support people with your condition.

If you are waiting for treatment, ask what you should be doing to make the wait more bearable and to make sure you are in good health when you do get your treatment. It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it because your treatment is likely to be more effective.

Whether you are a person in pain, healthcare professional, employer, friend or relative, we can all do something to help.

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