Rugby star talks about living with Chronic Pain

Chronic pain.

Luke Fitzgerald, former Ireland and Leinster rugby player, spoke at the launch of a new campaign about his own experience of living with chronic pain.

 Luke Fitzgerald, former Ireland and Leinster rugby player, spoke this week at the launch of a new campaign about his own experience of living with chronic pain. The campaign, #TodayIsBetter, created by Pfizer in partnership with the Irish Pharmacy Union, Arthritis Ireland, Chronic Pain Ireland, Fibro Ireland, the Irish Cancer Society, and the Migraine Association of Ireland, encourages people like Luke who live with chronic pain to speak out about their experience to ensure their voices are heard by everyone in society.  This will lead to a greater understanding of what it’s like to live daily experiencing chronic pain. 

As part of the #TodayIsBetter initiative, a dedicated campaign website, was launched today to give those with chronic pain an opportunity to have their say on what would really help them to have a better day – at work, at home, when socialising, or on their daily commute.

#TodayIsBetter campaign ambassador Luke Fitzgerald said, “Many people are aware of the injuries I have had in the past that affected my rugby career. However, what people might not be aware of is the chronic pain I live with every day. I first experienced chronic pain in 2015 after being diagnosed with bulging discs in my cervical spine. I try alleviating the pain with regular exercise and by ensuring my neck is in a neutral position/non-aggravating position while doing everyday tasks. Like many people with chronic pain, everyday things cause me considerable pain. For example, staring at a computer screen for prolonged periods of time can really cause me a lot of discomfort, from headaches to stiffness and loss of feeling”.

Research commissioned by Pfizer as part of the #TodayIsBetter campaign revealed that 10% of the population are living with chronic pain. Other research has shown the community prevalence of chronic pain in Ireland to be 35.5%2 and that 25% of people aged 50+ report that they often have moderate or severe pain.   Chronic pain is a disease of the central nervous system, and is defined as pain that either persists beyond the point that healing would be expected to be complete (usually taken as 3-6 months) or that occurs in disease processes in which healing does not take place. Amongst those with chronic pain, arthritis (36%) and back pain (34%) are the two most common conditions reported.

Of the estimated 10% of Irish adult people living with chronic pain, it was revealed that:

46% feel their condition has had a significant impact on their overall quality of life,1
59% have had to stop hobbies as a direct result of their condition,1
56% admit to socialising less.1
The direct impact in terms of working life for those with chronic pain is also being felt. 23% of those with chronic pain have had to quit a job because of their condition, and 20% took early retirement as a result.1 Younger men surveyed were particularly worried about the potential impact their chronic pain could have on their job.1

John Molony, Business Unit Lead at Pfizer Ireland said, “Chronic pain can be isolating, debilitating and hard to explain. We need to ask as a society, what can we all do to make today better for those who live with chronic pain? It may be difficult for those who do not have chronic pain to relate to and understand what those who do have chronic pain go through on a daily basis. The #TodayIsBetter campaign aims to empower those with chronic pain to have their say on how we all can help them live a better today.”

Daragh Connolly, President of the Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU) said, “Chronic pain does not command significant attention but it is a debilitating condition, which can seriously affect the quality of life of a sufferer.  Chronic pain can negatively affect patients’ functional ability, quality of life and mood.  Pharmacists have a key role to play in pain management by providing advice and helping patients to categorise the type of pain they are experiencing in order to provide the best treatment options as quickly and as effectively as possible.”

John Lindsay, Chairperson, Chronic Pain Ireland said “People living with Chronic Pain are living with an invisible illness as often the person does not have any visible symptoms. Your colleague at work or the person standing next to you on the bus or train could have chronic pain, and you would never know it.”

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