Of the various ailments causing chronic pain in an estimated 6.8 million Canadians, the most common is arthritis.

A disease causing inflammation of the joints, arthritis makes life difficult for those who suffer from it, such as Waterloo resident Joan Pearson.

“Constant pain is quite hard to live with. I’m not very good at living with constant pain, so I take painkillers,” Pearson tells CTV.

But while medication is one way of treating the disease, alternative forms of treatment also prove popular.

In Pearson’s case, that alternative treatment comes from Sue MacQueen, a Kitchener-based therapist working for the Arthritis Society.

MacQueen says people living with arthritis often feel alone and disconnected.

“People feel the pain in their joints, but their friends and family may say ‘You look great, why do you have pain?’” she says.

Pearson’s pain began in her hands. She says she tried to ignore it and work past it at first, but later realized she would need to seek help.

“It became more difficult to ignore,” she says.

“Opening things is very difficult. Everything is very difficult.”

Canadian Pain Coalition president Lynn Cooper agrees that it’s difficult for pain sufferers to get their problem across to others.

“We can be very easily misjudged as complainers, maligners, and worse yet drug seekers,” she says.

But people are starting to listen, and in some cases even developing new tools and products to make life easier for those suffering from arthritis and other diseases causing chronic pain.

Those tools can do simple tasks like automatically opening a bottle of water, something arthritis makes it difficult for Pearson to do.

“It is simple little things that have made a big difference,” she says.

Although arthritis is generally thought of as a disease for the elderly, it can affect people at any age. Two-thirds of Canadian arthritis sufferers are female.

MacQueen says seeking medical help early on is key in preventing arthritis.

“If it is a condition like rheumatoid arthritis, you have a very small window of opportunity to get on medication that will prevent damage from occurring in the joints,” she says.