Ten military Veterans living with chronic pain from across Canada completed the second annual Military Veterans Alpine Challenge (Alpine Challenge) on Saturday, August 19, in Whistler, British Columbia. The Alpine Challenge is a seven-kilometre hike organized by the Chronic Pain Centre of Excellence for Canadian Veterans (CPCoE) with the goal of equipping Veterans with education and training to manage their chronic pain and to bring awareness to the issue.
Approximately 20 per cent of Canadians are affected by chronic pain and most recent data shows that Veterans suffer at twice that rate. Those with chronic pain have to navigate myriad physical, cognitive, emotional, social and environmental factors that contribute to their condition. The Alpine Challenge aims to provide education and tools to Veterans that they can continue to apply following completion of the event.
“What sets the Alpine Challenge apart from other events is the training and preparation we provide to participants prior to the hike. Our focus is on helping the Veterans develop strategies for managing their chronic pain, applying the skills they developed in the military to new goals and life experiences,” comments Tom Hoppe, Military Veteran and past Chair of the Centre of Excellence Advisory Council of Veterans. “Transitioning out of active service is extremely difficult for Veterans, so it is a really impactful event that brings a sense of comradeship, community, and challenge back into the lives of those who participate.”
Veterans often struggle with military mindset and purpose after leaving the military and face the challenge of how their mission and team-oriented outlook applies to life beyond service. By creating parallels between life during and after service, the identity education involved for participants is about encouraging Veterans to live with a renewed sense of purpose and equipping them with the tools they need to do so.
“The Alpine Challenge provides individual participants with a goal to work towards and a reason to challenge themselves,” explains Paul Roos, Veteran and Director of Operations for the CPCoE. “The highlight, along with my experience, was the renewed sense of camaraderie among everyone who participated.”
Additional participants who work in chronic pain management-related fields joined the hike to learn about the experiences of the Veterans and provide their knowledge on chronic pain, safe movement, nutrition, and other topics to help improve their quality of life.
The Alpine Challenge is just one aspect of the work that the CPCoE does to support Veterans across Canada, with other aspects including a research mandate to improve the understanding of Veteran-specific chronic pain and mobilizing findings and recommendations to help Veterans and their families manage their pain and reconnect with life.
“This hike wouldn’t have been possible without the dedication and hard work from Tom Hoppe and Dr. Lindsay Rite,” adds Roos. “We would also like to thank our other sponsors of the event ChangePain, Summit Lodge and Blackcomb Helicopters.”