September marks Pain Awareness Month hosted by the International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP). Ideally, this month sparks more conversations and understanding about pain between health professionals, people living with pain, policy makers and the wider community.
Awareness is key, and any improved attention about the issue of pain in Australia, and indeed worldwide, is beneficial.
This year’s theme for Pain Awareness Month is #MyPainPlan – focusing on the importance of an individualised, multidisciplinary, multimodal approach to pain care. The complexities of treating or managing pain are tied to this point – pain is an individual experience. Only the person experiencing the pain will understand the feeling and the impacts. They will also have different responses to treatments.
We recognise that ideal pain management, one that takes a holistic and multidisciplinary approach, is not accessible or affordable for every person experiencing chronic pain. That is why we are committed to making pain a national health priority, to ensure access to integrated pain management services for all Australians, especially our most vulnerable.
Education and training is vital, to ensure our health professionals have the resources and knowledge they need and are supported to continue learning. We are all learning. Pain Awareness Month is a reminder of this, as international communities come together to discuss pain and learn and share with our peers around the world.
Global conversations can prove beneficial for understanding what solutions are being trialled in other countries and how this is working for them.
I will be sharing Painaustralia’s learnings at the 14th Annual Pain Society of Alberta Virtual Conference in October. I’ll be discussing the work of Painaustralia and talking about our experience with the development of the National Strategic Action Plan for Pain Management.
Painaustralia has continually collaborated with our international peers on pain issues, including working with IASP to inform consultations on issues that impact people living with chronic pain. Our most recent submission to IASP strongly supported the inclusion of a clear link to biological, psychological and social factors in the new international definition of pain.
Recently we have provided input to a number of international consultations including:
Painaustralia works with international organisations like IASP, providing submissions to inform international consultation processes. Our recent submission to the IASP strongly supported the clear link to biological, psychological, and social factors as included in the new international definition for pain and its accompanying notes.
Some of these consultations are critical to changing the way that the system responds to people living with pain. For example, together with other key Australian and international experts and groups, we supported our American colleagues to address forced opioid tapering regulations in Oregon. These combined efforts resulted in the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) changing its position – now clearly identifying the harms associated with sudden discontinuation of opioid pain medicines.
This demonstrates that when we come together and collaborate, engaging in respectful conversations, we can achieve real results and make real progress for people living with pain.
One of the key elements of Pain Awareness Month that I believe is important is acknowledgement. Acknowledgement of the work of pain professionals. There are many individuals and groups out there working hard to find solutions to pain and pain management. Many of these are our members: pain specialists, GPs and allied health professionals making a difference to the lives of many. There are researchers, investigating pain to provide broad solutions. Importantly there are consumers advocating for improved services and support.
Painaustralia, for its part, is advocating to put pain on the national agenda, making it visible and ensuring that resources are directed where they are most needed. We do this by drawing together the significant expertise that exists in this sector.
While Australia has a long way to go to achieve ‘ideal’ pain management and build awareness of the impact of pain, we acknowledge the people out there working hard. Listening and understanding goes a long way towards making a difference. Supporting our international colleagues and learning from their experience can only enhance our own.