A Quesnel doctor has created a website to help deal with something she sees as a huge problem: chronic pain.
General practitioner Dr. Judy Dercksen identified an opportunity to help patients by creating a comprehensive pain management website called painimprovement.com.
“I created the pain website because family physicians have a really hard time managing chronic pain in a busy office,” she said. “Especially with the opioid crisis, when doctors were restricted in their use of opioids, it became really difficult to treat was severe pain, so a lot of patients had their medications reduced or even taken away, and it became very hard to manage patients.”
“In the rural areas, we don’t have a lot of tools to manage patients who have chronic pain, so I felt I wanted to do an Internet-based pain program that patients could use at home and also that doctors could use to help manage chronic pain,” she added.
Painimprovement.com is meant to be easy to navigate and is geared toward patients who may not be computer-savvy. The site features step-by-step pain management instructions, simple pain-related menu items, podcasts, blog posts and links to other resources, like Pain BC, Self-Management BC, and Anxiety Canada.
“The site is geared towards trying to help people be involved with pain management, and we need people to raise their voices,” said Dercksen. “We as doctors, we can’t fight this pain problem ourselves. We need the help of people from the families of people who are in chronic pain, people in chronic pain themselves, other therapists, massage, physio, chiropractors — we all need to work together to solve the problem of chronic pain because it’s something we’re all struggling with. It’s huge.”
One of the things Dercksen feels very strongly about is there’s very much a misunderstanding about chronic pain, and she would like to change the way people think about chronic pain and the people who are suffering from chronic pain.
“People who have chronic pain, their bodies and their brains are very overwhelmed,” she said. “It’s hard for them to even manage normal daily tasks if they have severe pain. If you have chronic pain, your body and brain gets overwhelmed, you struggle to manage even the simplest tasks, so it’s very difficult for people who have chronic pain to sort out a plan to manage their own pain, and that’s why we need the help of family, friends, everybody needs to be on board.”
According to a Statistics Canada report from 2018, six million Canadians report a form of chronic pain.
“One of the reasons I did the website is it’s very difficult to explain the cause of chronic pain because we often don’t know the cause, or, there are so many different causes for chronic pain, so I’m using the website as a way to explain pain as well,” she said.
Dercksen says chronic pain can also cause anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, sleep problems and physical illness brought on by the fact you are constantly in stress.
“It has lots of consequences,” she said. “When you have chronic pain, you are exhausted, you don’t have the energy to exercise, you have too much pain to exercise; it’s very, very hard, so it has to start very slowly, helping your body.”
While the content on painimprovement.com was created by Dercksen, the project was sponsored by the Northern Interior Rural Division of Family Practice, a joint initiative of Doctors of B.C. and the Government of B.C.
Dercksen, who published a Special Feature article in the January/February issue of the British Columbia Medical Journal on the important role that websites, social media platforms and patient self-management programs can play in helping patients manage their pain, invites questions and feedback from patients who use her website because, as she explains, “the stronger the voice of the chronic pain community, the more likely we are to solve problems.”
Dercksen says she has received very positive reviews about the site from both people with chronic pain and physicians.
“I’ve received a lot of support from Doctors of B.C., Divisions B.C.,” she said. “I’ve also received a lot of encouragement from the other websites, Self Management Canada and Pain BC.”