Canadians suffering from arthritis and other diseases causing chronic pain have to live not only with the physical aches, but also with an additional pain hitting them in the pocketbook.

“Our health care systems are not supporting the person who is living with pain, their family or our health care providers to have adequate pain management,” says Lynn Cooper, president of the Canadian Pain Coalition.

While visits to the doctor are covered for all Canadians, other expenses like prescription drugs, rehab and other measures to help cope with physical pain must be paid for either through a health plan or out of pocket.

Cooper says chronic pain keeps many Canadians from holding down a job, often eliminating the possibility of them being able to fund pain treatments out of a health plan.

Sandra Gartz knows that firsthand. The Kitchener woman was already dealing with chronic pain brought on by fibromyalgia when she suffered a workplace injury. Since then, pain has kept her from being able to hold down a job.

“One day you’re working and carrying on and supporting your family, and the next day you’re doing nothing except walking around in the house and having your meals prepared for you. It’s devastating,” she says.

Chronic pain is an estimated $60-billion drain on the Canadian economy each year, with health care expenses and lost productivity costing the average pain sufferer an annual $17,000.

Gartz does have limited coverage through a health plan, which allows her to seek treatment from a massage therapist.

“Massage day is a rest for me. After my treatment … I go home and I rest for the rest of the day,” explains Gartz.

“When I get up (the next day) I’ll feel better than I did prior to massage.”

The Canadian Pain Coalition estimates that about 6.8 million Canadians live with chronic pain.