It’s National Pain Week and Chronic Pain Australia is calling on the Australian Government to strengthen primary care for people living with chronic pain, to try and alleviate some of the emotional and financial burdens that they experience, on top of the physical burden of living with pain.
National Pain Week is an annual initiative of Chronic Pain Australia, which aims to de-stigmatise the experiences of people living with chronic pain, and promote the latest research and information that explains chronic pain to the wider Australian community.
Dr Coralie Wales, President of Chronic Pain Australia says one in five Australians lives with chronic pain and this figure increases sharply with age, to around one in three people over 65 years.
“People living with chronic pain are often unable to work, meaning they are already at a financial disadvantage, and when you add in the financial cost of actually trying to live with chronic pain, people are really struggling,” she said
Dr Wales says that most people living with chronic pain are simply not receiving the holistic care that they need to improve their situations.
“GPs are the primary port of call for many pain sufferers, but unfortunately, most don’t have adequate training in pain management, or the time and resources to effectively manage pain patients who have complex needs. Affordability and access of treatment plays a huge role, and prescribing pain medication is often the cheapest, quickest and easiest treatment option available.”
However, recent changes to regulations around prescribing potentially-addictive medications like codeine and opioids have meant that many people living with chronic pain are now being told that they can no longer have the medication that they use to manage their pain, leaving them feeling isolated, unsupported and vulnerable.
A Success Story
Mary-Lynne Cochrane, a 60-year-old Sister of the Good Samaritan from Sydney, has lived with chronic pain from arthritis for more than 35 years, and has undergone 22 surgeries in that time.
After decades of opioid use to control her pain, three years ago Mary-Lynne made the decision to try to manage her chronic pain more holistically, with relaxation, yoga, diet, exercise, counselling and physiotherapy. After three years of hard work, Mary-Lynne, who initially just wanted to be able to walk around the block, recently completed the Sydney Harbour Bridge climb with a group of supporters from Chronic Pain Australia, including President Dr Coralie Wales.
Poor Access to Pain Clinics
While some public hospitals do have tertiary pain clinics providing holistic care to chronic pain sufferers, less than 1% of people with chronic pain are getting into these clinics. Patients are waiting months, and in some cases years, to access these services.
People with chronic pain living in regional, rural and remote areas are particularly disadvantaged when it comes to access to pain services, as most pain clinics and pain specialists are based in major cities, and many people with chronic pain are unable to travel, or simply can’t afford to.
Be bold: let’s manage pain together
The theme of this year’s National Pain Week, which runs from 24 – 30 July 2017, is ‘Be bold: let’s manage pain together’. A core aim of National Pain Week is to bring people living with chronic pain together with health care professionals, to find better ways to treat chronic pain.
People who suffer from chronic pain are encouraged to share their experiences and ideas on the Chronic Pain forum or on social media, using the hashtags #NPW2017, #NationalPainWeek, #BeBold, #LetsManagePainTogether.