Living in constant pain day in and day out, pain so all-consuming that it affects your ability to think, communicate, to move. A pain that seems to impact all aspects of your life. It would be an unbearable situation. You want to get help, you want to regain your life. What path might you take to get help?
You might go see your GP. Chances are (3 out of 4 times), she/he will give you a script for a medication. That might help you in the short term, it will dull your brain’s perception to the pain, and for a while you will regain function and what may appear to be a measure of normality.
However, the medicine only targets the pain receptors in your brain, not the underlying condition that causes the pain. Over time you may need more, higher doses, as your body builds tolerance to the medicines or your brain becomes more sensitive to the pain. And like all medications, pain relief medicines come with side effects. You could find yourself on a long road, one that many consumers find themselves on, only to find way down in their journey that you are probably heading in the wrong direction.
Only 15% of all GP consultations end with a referral to another health practitioner. This situation is problematic on two fronts. Not only are we pushing millions of Australians towards a pharmacological pathway of pain management, we are also not providing them with an evidence-based way of best practice pain management.
The one consistent question Painaustralia has heard from many people living with chronic pain over the years is not surprising: How can I get the right help?
As always, the answer to the complicated question of chronic pain, is never straightforward. For many years we have grappled with the complexities of chronic pain. Sometimes pain cannot be ‘treated’, cannot be explained, cannot be ‘killed’ with medication. Effective pain management, the way we respond to chronic and persistent pain, has now become one of those glaring public health challenges. Like pain itself, this challenge is often overlooked or invisible to the public eye.
Fortunately there is a way forward. We know that like all complex conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease, we need to build a team of health professionals around the person living with the condition. You may need a physiotherapist who helps you regain function and mobility for your osteoarthritis, you may need a psychologist who can help you with the anxiety you experience every month living with endometriosis. It could be a dietitian who assists you in managing your rheumatoid arthritis, or a pharmacist who helps you juggle all the other chronic conditions you deal with along with your complex regional pain syndrome. It may be one, or more, or all of these allied health professions, but having access to them is the best possible chance that you can have at managing your complex chronic pain condition that is unique to you.
This approach to pain management, the psycho-social-bio approach, is central to the aims of both the National Pain Strategy and the National Strategic Action Plan for Pain Management. Both these visionary documents provide a blueprint for the treatment of pain, recommending an interdisciplinary approach to deliver best practice pain management which takes into account the complex physical, psychological and environmental factors that underpin pain conditions.
This is why today, Painaustralia and the Federal Government have taken a step back to basics and provided consumers with the support they need to make informed decisions around their pain management options and pathways.
The new interactive directory launched by Minister Greg Hunt today includes a geographical location tool that can visually show the pain services nearest to your postcode. The Directory lists over 200 facilities both public and private, as well as offering the list of services provided by each facility.
The Directory takes us and each of the 3.24 million people living with chronic pain one step closer to achieving greater awareness of pain and pain management, and more timely access to consumer-centred multidisciplinary services, the gold standard in pain treatments available today.
If you can imagine constant pain, you can begin to imagine how useful it might be to find a pathway to best practice care.
Carol Bennett, CEO
Special thanks for the design and development of this directory to Painaustralia’s outstanding Design and Office Manager, Nick Nguyen.
This resource was developed by Painaustralia with funding from the Australian Government Department of Health. Special thanks to the Minister for Health, the Hon Greg Hunt MP for his support of this initiative.
Painaustralia acknowledges the contribution of the Australian Pain Society which provided invaluable information to assist in the development of this resource.