'Vast majority of population' can't access private treatment for chronic pain, Sudbury doctor says

If you search online for help in treating chronic pain, the options are vast. However, some say a lot of treatment offered at private facilities is out of reach for most people.

Services are available, but many require insurance or payment out of pocket

Acupuncture is one treatment offered to help those with chronic pain.

If you search online for help in treating chronic pain, the options are vast. However, some say a lot of treatment offered at private facilities is out of reach for most people.

Recently in Sudbury, the hospital opened its Integrated Chronic Pain Management Program. It offers patients suffering from chronic pain access to a doctor, a nurse, a pharmacist and a physiotherapist. However the clinic, which is funded by the province, already has a six to 18 month waiting list.

There are many private clinics available that offer treatment for chronic pain, but Sudbury's Janet Lewis says that's not an option for her. She has fibromyalgia and says benefits offered through the Ontario Disability Support Program cover medication but not other therapies.

"I mean, you can't work to get the insurance coverage so without it, it really is a catch-22," she said.

"We're kind of stuck in a system that really doesn't help us. It's helping us to stay home, but how is that helping us?"

Dr. Mike Franklyn, a Sudbury addictions doctor, agrees many people face barriers when accessing care in the private system.

"Part of the problem is opioids are covered and it's relatively easy to get a prescription," he said.

"All the other things — acupuncture, physio, chiro, something called cognitive behavioural therapy — all those modalities that are much better at treating chronic pain are not covered. So the vast majority of the population has no access to those services."

For those who can access services privately or through insurance there are a number of options. Here are a few of them:

Medical Cannabis

Sarah Cadorette estimates about 2,000 people have come through her door, many of them looking for help to manage their chronic pain. She's the clinic supervisor of Bodystream Medical Marijuana Services in Sudbury.

The clinic gives people who are already diagnosed with a condition access to medical cannabis. Patients consult with a doctor via telehealth and if a prescription is written, patients access their medicine through a licensed provider through Health Canada.

Sarah Cadorette, the clinic supervisor of Bodystream Medical Marijuana Services, holds up medical marijuana bottles. (Martha Dillman/CBC)

Cadorette says many patients are prescribed medical cannabis with a high CBD component, which doesn't get you high.

Even though recreational marijuana is now legal, Cadorette says there are many benefits for patients to stick with medical marijuana.

"You can get different discounts if you have a low income or Veterans Affairs," she said.

"Insurance is now covering it so there's a lot of benefits to do it the medical route."

Patients can also claim medical cannabis as a tax expense.

Social Work

The HeadWay Clinic in Sudbury is a private facility that offers a number of therapies for chronic pain management, including counselling, massage therapy, yoga and occupational therapy.

Ashley May, a registered social worker with the clinic, explains who she helps those with chronic pain.

"A lot of the time what we see with our chronic pain clients is it manifests into either anxiety, depression, affects their day to day activities, resulting in stress, affects their personal relationships," she said.

"We definitely look at the other side of treatment as to how to complement their physical interventions."

Ashley May, a registered social worker and Dr. Natasha Jakelski both work at the HeadWay Clinic in Sudbury. (Martha Dillman/CBC)

Chiropractic treatment

Also at The HeadWay Clinic is Dr. Natasha Jakelski, who is a chiropractor.

"It isn't just for someone suffering from lower back pain or sciatica, there's a multitude of conditions that chiropractors can help with you treat and it doesn't have to be an adjustment," she said.


Dr. Jakelski also offers acupuncture treatment.

"It works to help calm or modulate the nervous system as well as release muscle tension," she said.

"That along with other modalities like IFC or TENS are great pain control techniques."

Massage Therapy

Over at the Optimum Health Centre, a number of treatments are provided, including massage therapy. Daniéle Gervais is a registered massage therapist.

"We do sports massage, we do relaxation, we do deep tissue [massage]," she said. 

Daniéle Gervais is the owner and operator of Optimum Health Centre in Sudbury. (Martha Dillman/CBC)

"So when we're doing massage, it's mostly to try and relax that tissue and increase blood flow into area so that the tissue can stay relaxed."

Other therapies available include treatment with an osteopath, naturopathic medicine and various injections to control pain, among others.

About the Author

Martha Dillman is a multimedia journalist based in Sudbury. You can find her on Twitter @marthaCBC or by email


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