Chronic pain patients suffering during pandemic due to lack of medical access

The shutdown of pain services and stay at home orders has affected chronic pain management worldwide. 

"The shortage, because of COVID, is really leaving people that have chronic pain and other disability issues stranded," says Dr. Michelle Hernandez, a psycholgist and disbility rights advocate.

The pandemic has led to canceled doctor's appointments, halted surgeries, and limited access to medication, and for a chronic pain patient all three are critically important. 

"Chronic pain is pretty much a companion of mine," Dr. Hernandez says.

At the age of three, Dr. Michelle Hernandez was diagnosed with Rheumatoid arthritis, leading to more than 50 surgeries and a lifetime of pain.

It's pain that's been worse for thousands during the pandemic, with doctor's offices closed and access to medication limited. 

"Most people are just trying to find relief," says Counselor Leticia Vaca, MSW/LCSW. 

Vaca runs Urban Health Counseling and says she's run into problems when helping her patients find that relief. "It’s really frustrating if I could be completely honest," Vaca says.

Though Vaca says getting help for her clients was hard before the pandemic, closed offices are making it even harder. "A lot of times it’s the antiquated systems that are causing a barrier," Vaca says.

Leaving cries for help unanswered. 

"We’ve gotta take health into our own hands, " Chronic pain expert, Kevin Yates, says, "and not just wait until the pandemic is over." 

Yates suffered from chronic pain hiself after a shoulder energy. He now helps others to deal with chronic pain.

He offers this solution to chronic pain patients: take control of your own life.

"Number 1 don’t wait and focus on the things that are in your control,"Yates says. 

Yates says excercising, eating healthy, and your mental health are important. Find out the root of your pain is also a suggest he has for suffering chronic pain patients. 

While Dr. Hernandez says telemedicine is helpful, with more people at home and attempting to use it, wait times for appointments are longer than usual. She is now working with Contra Costa County and the state to make sure disabled indivudals and chronic pain patients get the help they need.  

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