Some people injured in accidents unfortunately develop what is known as “chronic pain” as a result of their injuries. Pain is usually considered chronic when it persists for more than 1 month after anticipated tissue healing, or if it has been present for at least 3 of the previous 6 months.
Approximately 18% of Australian adults suffer from chronic pain. Common causes of chronic pain are joint arthritis, degenerative disc disease and traumatic injuries. It can also occur as part of a generalised pain syndrome such as fibromyalgia (widespread pain and tenderness in the body.)
Many people with chronic pain face challenges with everyday functioning. For example, chronic pain can effect a person’s capacity to work, undertake activities of daily living such as household chores, ability to participate in pre-accident hobbies, exercising, socialising with friends and intimate relationships.
Chronic pain can also impact on a person’s relationships with friends, family and partners as they struggle to adapt to an overall loss of function and are forced to rely on others to assist or take over their pre-injury responsibilities.
This loss of self, together with the uncertainty as to whether they will ever be pain-free, can lead to feelings of anger, frustration, sadness, grief and guilt. In some circumstances these feelings may lead to the emergence of anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder or substance abuse.
Depression is the most common mental illness associated with chronic pain. Depression magnifies the pain and reduces a person’s ability to live with chronic pain. It can reduce motivation, increase fatigue, and decrease resilience. Depression by itself presents a challenge to one’s day-to-day functioning, so when coupled with chronic pain, this overlap can be extremely detrimental.
As chronic pain and depression can be intertwined, doctors will often treat them together in the form of pain management, anti-depressant medication and therapy. Successful treatment of depression can often reduce pain, improve function and restore quality of life for those suffering from chronic pain.
If you or someone you know is suffering from chronic pain and/or depression it is important to know that there are organisations that offer support to those that need it. These include beyondblue, the Black Dog Institute and the Australian Pain Management Association.
If you or someone you care about is suffering from chronic pain or depression as a result of an accident, you may be entitled to compensation. To arrange a free, no-obligation assessment of your claim, please call Stacks Goudkamp on 1800 25 1800, or alternatively make an online enquiry.
Written by Emily Harris.
Emily Harris is a Practice Group Leader at Stacks Goudkamp. She has experience acting for clients in a variety of different areas, including motor vehicle claims, medical negligence claims and public liability claims.