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A long struggle to have chronic pain recognized as a disease with specifics on treatment is coming to an end with a decision by the Alberta Medical Association last Friday that will see a section on chronic pain, says a local pain specialist.

Dr Gaylord Wardell

“It is such good news.  This is the first in the history of Alberta, ” said Dr Gaylord Wardell, an anesthesiologist and pain specialist in Medicine Hat who has been lobbying for this.  “This will mean a unified voice in addressing chronic pain.”Wardell will be one of the people involved in drafting the section on chronic pain.It will mean resources through Alberta Health Services to educate family doctors, nurses, insurance companies, the Workers’ Compensation Board and health professionals in general, said Wardell.  It will also raise awareness of the methods to treat chronic pain and ultimately help to cut down prescription drug abuse.

Only four of 117 medical schools in North America currently have a formal curriculum for pain with classes and written exam, and the lack of pain education has contributed to over-prescribing opioids, said Wardell.

Pain is the second most important survival signal from the brain.  Every tissue cut at surgery has microscopic nerves that were cut and don’t heal.  There is a very good chance the brain will misinterpret those signals and turn them into pain and you can’t see the cuts in the micronerves.

Nurses and doctors unaware of this are inclined to think the patient is lying, which is the biggest concern for anyone with chronic pain, said Wardell.

“I am thrilled to hear the news about the AMA’s decision,” said Kim Miller, one of Wardell’s patients.  “I had to read the news in the e-mail a few times to take it all in”.

Raising awareness among the medical community is critical but also with family, said Miller.

“It is hard even for family to understand about chronic pain and the treatment you’re getting,” said Miller.

The Alberta Medical Association ended a long struggle to have chronic pain recognized as a disease with specifics on treatment, in a vote taken last Friday, and Dr. Gaylord Wardell, anesthesiologist and pain specialist in Medicine Hat, says it will mean greater resources to educate health professionals about the disease and methods of treatment.

Top News Story in Medicine Hat News 26th September, 2012 written by Gillian Slade   email:   Twitter:  MHNGillianSlade

Definition of Chronic Pain

Pain that continues or recurs over a prolonged period, caused by various diseases or abnormal conditions.  Chronic pain is continuous, long-term pain of more than 12 weeks or after the time that healing would have been thought to have occurred in pain after trauma or surgery.

Definition of Neuropathic pain

Neuropathic pain is pain initiated or caused by a primary lesion or dysfunction in the peripheral or central nervous system. For example pain following shingles, or an amputation,  or spinal cord trauma. Pain that occurs in diabetics or in patients with multiple sclerosis. Can also be neuropathic.


chronic pain


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