Changes to NICE guidelines on chronic pain could destroy many lives

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Changes to NICE guidelines on chronic pain image
“Pain” by Racchio is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

Many people’s lives depend on treatments that may soon be unavailable because of changes to  NICE guidelines on chronic pain. One in six people live with a  chronic pain condition.  The medical reasearchers show little interest in finding treatments and receive much less funding for chronic pain than other conditions.  People such as myself, who live with chronic pain, will find it affects their lives physically, psychologically , socially and financially.   Our friends and families may see us as anxious, depressed, unreliable, exhausted and generally unpredicatable.  Now our Government has sent a strong message that we are also a financial burden and unworthy of support.

There are no treatments out there for chronic pain that will offer a ‘cure’ or that will alleviate all the distress the condition causes.  But there are many out there that will at least improve life.  Chronic pain is any pain condition which lasts for more than three months.

Most people will experience pain if they are injured or if they have some disease.  Pain is an effective warning and safety mechanism.  It prevents people with broken legs from walking at all, giving the leg time to heal.  It may get other people seeking help from a doctor as it has alerted them to the fact they are ill.  I wouldn’t want to be without my pain mechanism (although some people are).

But our pain mechanism can become faulty.  It can make you feel like a part of your body, or indeed your whole body, hurts when in fact you have no injury or illness.  There are many reasons why this can happen and many different conditions cause this to happen.  And sometimes, as in my case, nobody will know why it happens.  Traditional painkillers will have limited effect.  But there are medications that people take regularly that can reduce the problem.  But now our Government is proposing changes to NICE guidelines on the treatment of chronic pain, so those medications won’t be available.

In my case I take Gabapentin.  It is actually an anti-epileptic drug and still leaves me with constant pain.  I once tried to give this up as I felt it wasn’t doing anything.  But I ended up curled up in bed feeling like I was going to be sick because of the pain.

Pain affects my sleep drastically and makes everything more exhausting.  It means I approach every important event knowing pain may at the last minute force me to cancel.  I may take on doing some things simply because they matter to me, but knowing I will be in agony afterward.  Exhaustion is a way of life, but I am finding my own ways of managing the condition thanks to the Gabapentin, Ibuprofen, and the help I received at a pain management clinic.

The NICE guidelines are going to change so the only treatments available will be:-

  • CBT or acceptance therapy
  • Five hours of acupuncture
  • Exercise

Acupuncture offers temporary relief from pain, but how just five hours of treatment can have any purpose at all is beyond me.  I certainly don’t need any help from a therapist in learning to accept my pain condition.  It reminds me constantly that it is there, denial just isn’t possible.  And, I don’t need a doctor or anyone else to give me a prescription to go for a walk.

NICE have said these changes are necessary because  many pain medications can have serious long term effects and/ or can be abused.  Pain medications are not alone in potentially having long terms negative effects.  There are also many other medications that have the potential for abuse. Pain managments clinics however have no potential for harm.  When I attended one it gave us all clear guidance on medication choices with information on known compliactions due to long term use.  But whether these medications have side effects, problems with addiction and a potential for abuse the fact remains that may people would find life intolerable without them.

Please help us stop this cruelty that will potentially affect millions in this country.  A Government can be judged on how well it cares for the most vulnerable in society.  Please sign this petition and lets start making sure our Government begins recognising that it has a responsibility to care for the people.

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