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New online portal helping people deal with chronic pain

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Chronic pain is considered one of the leading causes of disability in this country.

Pair that with long waitlists for specialized pain care and you have millions of people eager for help.

Now a new online portal, which includes a Manitoba-made course proven to help get people engaged in pain management right away, is available.

According to Health Canada, one in five Canadians live with chronic pain, which is pain lasting longer than three months. On top of that, people are waiting up to three years to see a pain specialist says clinical psychologist Dr. Renée El-Gabalawy.

"Not only are people suffering but access to care is quite limited," she said.

It's why the Winnipeg-based clinical psychologist and her colleague Dr. Brigitte Sabourin developed an online self-directed program called 'IMPACT.' The course teaches people about a newer, evidence-based approach called acceptance and commitment therapy or ACT for short.

"When they learn these new ways of relating to these experiences they become, in a way, freer so that they can really focus their energy on living a life that matters to them and doing those things that really make life worth living, " said Sabourin, who is an assistant professor in the department of clinical health psychology at the University of Manitoba and a clinical health psychologist.

El-Gabalawy told CTV News early research found people liked the online format and the content enhanced pain functioning and quality of life. She added the more you put in, the more you get out.

"People are waiting to see specialists and that is a piece of the puzzle. But in order to enhance your quality of life and reduce that impact of pain you really need to be engaging in these self-management strategies that really optimize your health."

The two say the IMPACT course isn't meant to replace specialized care, but to get people started on self-management while they wait.

It is also a part of the new national Power Over Pain Portal, a pain-management tool Canadians living with pain don't have to wait for or pay for.

"It's a new initiative that hopefully will help, potentially help millions of Canadians throughout all of Canada to really engage in those kinds of behaviours that are helpful," said Sabourin.

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