Chronic Pain in Another Part of the World

28 Jul

I would really like to know if this statistic is true and how it came to be… 1 in 10 adult Australians suffer from chronic pain? That seems a little high. Furthermore, if it is true that it is underreported, how many really suffer from it? I can now understand why many aren’t getting the help that they need. At least there is awareness on the topic unlike here in America where either you’re considered to be “faking it” or are just “looking for a fix”.

One of the most interesting things about this article is the possibility of defining chronic pain as a “disease”. I wonder what this would mean for those afflicted with it. I am not sure of what the disability laws are like in Australia, and would love for someone to fill me in on this. How would redefining chronic pain influence the sufferer? What do you think?

Chronic pain takes a big toll

Cathy O’Leary Medical Editor,
The West Australian
Updated July 26, 2012, 2:10 am

Health experts are warning that chronic pain is taking a huge personal and economic toll on Australians, affecting one in five people and costing more than $34 billion a year.

As part of National Pain Week, they say pain clinics around the country have long waiting lists and less than 10 per cent of patients with chronic pain have access to effective treatment.

It comes as new figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics based on a household survey show one in 10 Australian adults experienced severe or very severe pain in the previous month and they were much more likely to report high levels of psychological distress than those without pain.

Experts argue chronic pain, which is pain that lasts longer than three months, should now be seen as a disease in its own right.

Perth occupational therapist Jane Muirhead said many people were still ashamed to seek help to manage pain because they thought it was just something they should learn to live with.

“Once people get through that hurdle and have their pain syndrome recognised there are some good programs but we’re often seeing them up to 10 years later than we should,” she said.

“People need to know that if they have pain longer than three to six months that’s not settling and seems to worsen when they do normal daily activities, then it needs to be addressed.”

Chronic Pain Australia president Coralie Wales said up to 20 per cent of GP visits were by patients suffering chronic pain and many ambulance callouts were for people with long-term pain.

“There are long waiting lists for specialised pain clinics and big areas of Australia have no clinics at all,” she said.

Professor Michael Cousins, who heads the University of Sydney’s Pain Management Research Institute, said the NSW Government had recently granted $26 million over four years to provide a comprehensive pain management plan.

“I’d like to see a program like that in all States because in this day and age not having access to pain management as a human right is really wrong,” he said.

Painaustralia chief executive Lesley Brydon said chronic pain was the biggest unrecognised health problem in Australia.


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2 responses to “Chronic Pain in Another Part of the World

  1. Free Monkey

    November 4, 2012 at 04:58

    This will be a long comment I’m afraid. Pain would be under reported partly because doctors tend to dismiss patients whose pain is unexplained (which is why a lot of people don’t go back to their doc), even when you get to the pain clinic they do CBT based programs, there is a big move away from drugs. GPs here don’t tend to dispense “drugs of addiction” even to patients who clearly qualify due to practice policy which means you either have to find one that does, find a good specialist or you use the emergency department who send you back to your GP. Not getting treated isn’t really a choice, it’s imposed.

    Chronic pain Australia is a fairly new organization (about 3-4 years old?) of which pain specialist doctors are a part of, they do education and advocacy. National pain week is only in its second year. I think the ABS stats referred to were these which are over a decade old, from what I recall about the ABS they release old stats to the public but the newer ones have to be applied for and paid for, assuming there are fresh stats taken, generally surveys tend to only ask questions they want answers to and in recent years mental health has been getting a push so much of what shows up is framed in that context. My fear is with that climate and the need for cheap solutions chronic pain will be re-framed as a mental health issue (especially in light of the suicide rates no one likes to talk about) and pain will continue to go untreated. Things are already going in that direction, here it’s less you are faking pain to get drugs and more you’re told it’s psychological and an antidepressant will work.

    You may want to also look into the treatment of chronic pain patients in South Australia, there if you take an opiate they send you to the drug addiction clinic for scripts where treatment is based on addiction harm minimization not therapeutic value and pain patients have to queue with addicts, I personally would not want a drug addict knowing I have opiates. Australia is opiate phobic too and we get out share of panic (eg four corners program on oxy the hidden epidemic in 2010).

    They are trying to reduce the number of people on disability by reducing the number of conditions and expecting more working hours from those who (in their unqualified opinion) they consider malingerers (which is how they treat people on the DSP) hopefully the disability insurance scheme currently being drawn up will change this but I don’t see chronic pain being put on the list of conditions that qualify. There is no way with the “1 in 10” stat chronic pain as an illness will be recognized if it means spending money, it would be too expensive.

  2. sheerharmony

    November 6, 2012 at 13:06

    The chronic pain is suffering millions of australians. There are several survey conducted and now official statistics are out that the number of patient die of drug side effects are significantly increasing. People now tend to incline towards drug free therapy that offer various clinically approved methods and multidisciplinary approach. Thanks for the Blog. keep Up the good work.


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