Guest Article: Painaustralia Newest Board Director Professor Lorimer Moseley AO
Since the last eNewsletter Painaustralia has welcomed chronic pain scientist Professor Lorimer Moseley onto our board of directors.
Professor Moseley is a pain scientist, educator and physiotherapist. He leads IIMPACT in Health at the University of South Australia, where he is also Professor of Clinical Neurosciences and Chair in Physiotherapy. He spent seven years working as a physiotherapist in pain and high-performance roles. In 1998, he undertook his PhD at the University of Sydney. Since then, he has continued to work with people challenged by persistent pain and has had research posts at the University of Queensland, Oxford University and Neuroscience Research Australia.
Professor Moseley believes chronic pain represents a unique challenge in healthcare because the understanding of pain within patients, health professionals and decision-makers is based on the wrong assumption that chronic pain is an unresolved injury in the body. “And that presents a massive problem,” he says, “because if it were that, then the best treatments we have would be treatments trying to fix the broken body part. But it’s not that.”
Instead, he suggests the best available treatments we have today focus on scientifically accurate education and active self-management skills. These include learning to break the pain-equals-damage cycle, sticking to a routine, participating in social life, accessing support groups, physical activity, reducing stress and looking after mental health.
We are delighted to welcome Professor Moseley to our board.
I often get asked ‘what got you interested in pain?’
The answer has evolved over the years, in line with a deepening understanding of myself and of how one’s experiences, interests and values shape our direction. Two themes have persisted however – that humans are truly fascinating (pain, in all its life-saving sophistication and unbearable brutality epitomises that reality), and extraordinarily adaptable (cue the sophistication and unbearable brutality observation again, but add the potential for recovery). I have worked as a pain clinician, scientist, and educator for 25 years and these two observations never cease to excite, intimidate, and challenge me.
The complexity of pain is apparent everywhere: in the research lab, where a series of identical stimuli, delivered to exactly the same person, by exactly the same person, in exactly the same room, with exactly the same context, trigger a range of experiences from ‘very painful’ to not even noticing the stimulus at all; in the clinic, where a mild ankle sprain can develop into an excruciating, highly disabling leg pain with massive swelling, colour changes and muscle tremors; in recovery, where someone with 25 years of similarly excruciating and disabling pain can gradually return to a fully engaged and pain-free life through a journey (not necessarily an easy one!) of understanding and disciplined employment of their own in-built biological magnificence!
In the midst of all this wonder is my own conviction that there is much to do if we are to improve the lives of the 1 in 5 Australians challenged by persisting pain. I am honoured, and challenged, to be appointed to the Painaustralia board. I bring my own baggage of course – personal experience of persistent pain and recovery, a wholehearted belief that science is the most accurate guide we have but is rendered all but useless without respect, compassion, and humility. I see no way towards better outcomes for people challenged by pain without collaboration, cohesion, and an unswerving commitment to better consumer outcomes. I see ‘the chronic pain problem’ as a public health challenge that requires whole of community education and engagement, intimidating for sure, but truly doable with what we know already, let alone what discoveries we will make moving forward.
Painaustralia is a critical player in this situation. There is irrefutable evidence that raising awareness of the problem of pain, removing stigma, increasing understanding of current scientific ideas about ‘how pain works’, and dismantling the barriers to participation in ‘high value care’, reduces the personal and community impact of pain. This is of course easier said than done – it is a massive ship that must negotiate tricky and at times hostile waters - but a coordinated, multipronged approach, with synergy and cohesion among all of us with ‘skin in the game’, is essential. Painaustralia is uniquely placed to guide this ship – its mission is all about consumer outcomes, reducing the social and economic burden of pain on individuals, communities and indeed on society as a whole.
What better time to reflect on this challenge, and do something about it, than during September, National Pain Awareness Month. Take the opportunity to alert people to chronic pain as a public health problem of staggering proportions. But, as you do, be sure to also alert them to the amazing discoveries that are transforming lives now, to doing everything we can, right now, to enable and empower people who live with chronic pain to participate in the community and in work, and to embrace scientifically based hope and possibility of a better life.