Living with chronic pain is more than just physical pain, it affects all aspects of someone's life emotionally, mentally, spiritually, financially and socially, too. It is largely invisible and therefore those affected feel disbelieved, misunderstood, marginalized and stigmatized.
Across Canada there are nearly 8 million people living with a diagnosis of chronic pain and it often accompanies other physical and mental health conditions. And in our community of Squamish, we are not exempt. There are many who are living and struggling greatly with these experiences.
Pain becomes considered chronic when it lasts longer than three months with often no clear cause. And for many in our community and beyond, they have been suffering with persistent pain for many many years. Chronic pain is complex as it is not always from and/or a direct result of tissue damage or physical injury in the body or systemic pain conditions.
Pain science is showing that the development of chronic pain or why an initial injury may become chronic can also be a result of stress, history of adverse child experiences, trauma, the sensitization of the nervous system, neural pathway changes, emotions (and suppressed emotions), thoughts and beliefs about pain, systems of oppression and anything else that causes or contributes one to live in a state of fear, isolation and/or poverty.
Essentially when someone is living with chronic pain, they live in a body that doesn't feel safe.
As chronic pain is complex, an integrative approach to care and healing is needed.
Over the last year at Under One Roof, we offered a multidisciplinary pain program through the support of PainBC offering low-barrier, integrative support to help address and consider the many aspects of living with chronic pain and striving to offer centralized and client-centered care.
The Squamish Pain Program is dedicated to offering support for people ages 17 and over in the community living with chronic pain and experiencing mental health struggles and/or risk of substance use who face barriers to accessing care.The program is led by a group of local practitioners and is free for participants and includes subsidies for transportation and childcare if needed. We work with outreach staff at Under One Roof, local doctors and community services like Squamish Mental Health and Substance Use for referrals of members of our community in need of support.
A factor that can limit care for people living with chronic pain is lack of access to support and services.
Many may also avoid seeking care due to mistrust of the medical system, experience of discrimination, or there are long waitlists and barriers to affording therapeutic care.
The program includes a clinical component where folks can access 1:1 counseling, physiotherapy, massage and yoga therapy to receive individualized care. Each cycle also offers a 10-week pain education and management support group called Making Sense of Pain where we talk and learn about the pain experience, pain and nervous system education, factors that contribute persistent pain while offering mental, emotional and pain support tools and skills. It’s a space where participants can show up as they are and feel seen and validated in their experience. A place to come together, socialize and be with others who understand - Community support is paramount for healing.
Having these low-barrier services available supports individuals to know they matter, that their experience matters and there is support available for their pain. It is a place to have space to address the contributing factors to someone's experience of pain and support them in attaining their personal goals.
Unfortunately, as for many programs, sustained funding can be a challenge and lack of consistency in care hinders support for individuals. We hope that we can continue offering this program in our community.
Please consider making a donation to the Squamish Pain Program.
We currently lack funding to be able to continue offering this effective program.
Squamish Helping Hands gratefully acknowledges the support of PainBC Society in making the pilot program possible.