Innovation News
Innovation News

Tracking Patient Care - Taking Control Of Chronic Pain


Category: Innovation News

I have lived with chronic pain, in the form of gastrointestinal dysfunction for the last five years. Chronic pain can be the result of an injury, disease, condition or may stem from an unknown cause. My health problems started when I was 25. Up until this point I had viewed going to the doctor as being a fairly simple interaction – they would look me over, pronounce what was wrong, prescribe a medication and then I would be cured. When I became chronically ill, things seemed to crumble. I was prescribed different medications, sent to specialists, but things didn’t get better - the wait between appointments made me feel like my life was on hold.


This expectation of finding a ‘cure’ was deeply embedded in me and became a destructive force. The health care system is primarily geared to solving immediate problems. Testing, diagnosing, relieving symptoms and expecting a cure, are hallmarks of contemporary health care. While these functions are appropriate for acute and episodic health problems, a notable disparity occurs when applying this model of care to the prevention and management of chronic conditions.


Although there is clear evidence that the ‘system’ is beginning to slowly change through a variety of initiatives, there still needs to be a greater emphasis on education, prevention and long term coordinated management plans. For me, finding a cure has been superseded by the determination to find the best individual pain management strategy.


To reduce my pain I decided to try other approaches along with continuing conventional medicine. Some of these interventions included naturopathy, yoga, Chinese medicine, acupuncture, meditation, and hypnotherapy to name a few. My health went up and down but I was finding it difficult to remember which approaches were providing the most relief, along with understanding the impact of side-effects. I found it impossible to remember the last few days, let alone the last few months of my pain experiences; it all seemed to blur together in an impossible mess with no apparent clear pattern.


Communicating with my health care practitioners, during time limited appointments, became even more stressful because the information I was providing was inaccurate and of little value. I began to repeat treatments and medications simply because I couldn’t recall how effective they had been. Reiterating my pain experiences ad-nauseam was also increasing my depression – a side-effect of my pain. I had tried a few different kinds of pen and paper style pain diaries, but I found them very cumbersome to fill out, and difficult to interpret over time periods longer than a week.


My difficulties with managing chronic pain strengthened my desire to find a better solution and take back control of my health. This led my partner, Chris Drabsch, and I to develop a pain management application for the iPhone/iPad called Chronica. This application has been designed to help users track their progress over time and identify pain triggers.


The future for managing chronic pain and other chronic health problems is clearly moving towards self-management in partnership with the right health care team and tools which enhance the quality of information and communication. Patients are encouraged to monitor their health status and make associated care decisions.2


After five years of seeking a solution to combat chronic pain, I feel like I am beginning to take back control.


Gianna Grbich

Director, Chronica

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