It is our understanding that these effects of chronic pain fall within the definition of a disability as described in the Equality Act of 2010: (‘a physical…impairment which has a substantial and long-term effect on a person’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities’) The effects of pain may have a direct effect in preventing a person from doing an activity, or there may be an indirect adverse effect, e.g. where the person can perform daily activities but suffers pain and fatigue when doing so. This is a common picture with chronic pain sufferers. Therefore, people with chronic pain are entitled to all the provisions under the Equality Act for
‘Reasonable adjustments’ to be made at work if they are managing to work, and in terms of access to all the usual public facilities.
Chronic pain presents a person with many challenges and it is only natural that a person who is greatly affected by their pain will need to learn new methods to manage these challenges. The aim of the INPUT Pain Management Programme is not to cure or reduce pain; instead; it aims to help people to take a different approach to living with constant pain and to work to improve their quality of life. It includes such elements as exercise and stretch, mindfulness techniques, working on valued activities and ‘approaching activities differently.’ The latter can include experimenting with doing activities in different ways, breaking them down into smaller steps, modifying tasks and incorporating breaks and changes of position in order to make overall activities more manageable.
Some people with chronic pain take medications and would rather not take these due to concerns about side-effect. We can help with this on the programme; however it is important to note that reducing or stopping medication does not signify that the pain has reduced or ceased.
Many people with chronic pain have had to give up employment, due to their pain. Many have a goal to return to work in some form, although it may not be to the job role or the hours that they were doing before. If they have not been able to work for some time, it is essential that people with chronic pain are allowed sufficient time to build up activity levels and fitness before attempting to return to work. Owing to the fluctuating and complex nature of chronic pain, it is not always possible to make predictions about how long this process may take; and if someone attempts to return to work too quickly, this may not succeed or be sustainable over time. There are various schemes to help people with disabilities to return to work. These can be accessed through the Disability Employment Adviser at the local jobcentre.
Chronic pain does not always mean that people cannot work; there are people who manage to do so successfully. People with chronic pain who are still working will need to consider and discuss with employers how the new approach and the skills they have learned can be applied in their work situation. Reviewing their support needs, making adjustments to the work environment, and considering different working hours or different ways of working can all be seen as examples of “reasonable adjustments” under the Equality Act (2010), which could enable a person with chronic pain to work in a more manageable and sustainable way. Such adjustments often do not need to be complicated or expensive.
Although the INPUT programme can significantly help people to improve the quality of life, it does not mean that the chronic pain problem will be cured, or that the intensity of the pain will reduce. People with chronic pain can learn to function well even in the presence of pain; however, it is important to bear in mind that living with pain poses daily and continuing challenges.
If you require further information, please visit www.gstt.nhs.uk/input
The INPUT Pain Management Team