‘Young people experiencing chronic pain’ – this should be an oxymoron. However, chronic pain does not discriminate by age. It is estimated one in four young people experiences chronic pain, many of whom are undiagnosed. This is an invisible illness about which many people remain completely unaware. But even though you cannot see it, persistent pain is always there.
Experience of chronic pain disproportionally affects people living in rural, regional and remote Australia. Sadly, the younger generation in these regions frequently lack resources and access to medical professionals. As pain clinics and associated specialists predominantly operate from metropolitan regions, caregivers and young regional and rural people impacted by persistent pain are at a disadvantage.
There remains an urgent need for medical professionals to be available to younger people, to assist them in managing their chronic pain and health outcomes. It is also critical that age-appropriate networks be promoted to facilitate peer support. While friends, family and others can provide differing levels of support, the effects of chronic pain can be difficult to understand without lived experience; only those experiencing chronic pain can properly comprehend the stigma and daily ‘upkeep’ required to get through each day.
The Australian Pain Management Association (APMA) has a free online national pain support group called Let’s Taco About It, targeting those 18 to 25 years old. This group helps young people living with chronic pain in rural, regional and remote Australia, by facilitating online monthly catchups through Zoom. Each month the group discusses a new topic relating to persistent pain, while promoting connectedness and peer support. Let’s Taco About It provides a safe space to talk about their pain experiences, removing barriers and isolation to show they are not alone.
As Let’s Taco About It co-facilitators, we have both gone through our own personal journey with chronic pain. We aim to create an environment that supports people with chronic pain and provide a space of empathy and understanding. It was a massive relief to connect with other young people who experience chronic pain and this is a message echoed by those who join the group. This sentiment of belonging is something we want to continue for all those who join the group and for future generations.
The number one priority for Let’s Taco About It in 2022 is to expand the outreach of the group and grow its membership. Any person between 18 and 25 affected by persistent pain, especially those in isolated regions, are encouraged to join.
APMA Chief Executive Officer Renee Rankin believes pain support groups have a positive role to play in improving the social connection and wellbeing of young people living with pain, ‘Friendships are really important for young adults and feelings of isolation can impact both the physical and mental health of this cohort. The Let's Taco About It pain support group offers a safe place to be seen and accepted.’
In addition to the Let’s Taco About It group, APMA offers pain support groups throughout Australia, and online. APMA also offers Australia’s only peer-support phone line for people impacted by persistent pain.
The Pain Link Helpline can be reached on 1300 340 357.
Membership to all of APMA’s services is free for those affected by persistent pain. We encourage you to become a member and explore the resources available at www.painmanagement.org.au.