Chronic pain affects one in five over 45

Chronic pain affects one in five over 45

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Throbbing pain in the lower back, a dull ache in the knees. Many of us know pain too well.

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THE constant, throbbing pain in the lower back, the dull ache in the knees.

One in five of Australians over the age of 45 know chronic pain all too well.

A new report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare shows the escalating impact this ongoing pain has.

According to the report, compared with people without chronic pain, those with chronic pain were 2.6 times as likely to have arthritis, 2.5 times as likely to have mental health problems, 2.5 times as likely to have osteoporosis and 2.4 times as likely to have other long-term health conditions or a long-term injury.

Painaustralia chief executive Carol Bennett said the country is facing a pain epidemic.

"The report reiterated our findings that pain costs our country a staggering $140 billion dollar every year, yet people living with chronic pain struggle with limited access to treatment and support options resulting in doctors and consumers continuing to rely heavily on prescription opioids to manage what is a multi-faceted, complex condition that needs more sophisticated responses," Ms. Bennett said.

Despite concerns around the harms, people with chronic pain continue to be primarily sent down the pharmacological intervention path, with more than half (57%) dispensed analgesics, compared with 1 in 5 (21%) people without chronic pain.

It found people with chronic pain are almost 3 times as likely to be dispensed opioids and other analgesics and migraine medication as those without pain.

"The last few years have seen multiple attempts to reduce opioid related harm, but clearly more needs to be done."

New management tool attracts global interest

A new chronic pain management tool has sparked interest throughout the world.

Since launching the latest tools in the Permission to Move app, Adelaide-based physiotherapist David Moen said he had been contacted by public hospitals and private clinicians across the world who were looking to begin using the tools.

"People are becoming more aware of treating chronic pain and they want to start using this style of practice. They want to be doing the best thing for their patients but they don't feel they have the skill set, because it's not widely taught yet," Mr Moen said.

"It seems as though there's a lack of resources, a lack of skills and programs or handouts."

About six years ago, Moen began developing educational resources to help people understand the biology of pain and what it meant for recovery.

He said he was inspired to create the suite after noting a "big discord" between the way physiotherapists were taught to treat pain and the science behind pain, while studying his Master of Physiotherapy.

"I did a study where we spoke to thousands of people who had chronic pain and were on waiting lists or waiting to get into pain clinics," he said.

"And it was just really clear that what was being done in practice and the way that people were treating pain didn't match what the research said about pain, or the clinical practice guidelines. And so there was this massive gap."

He has so far launched three products for clinicians looking to up-skill and patients who haven't been able to find a clinician providing modern pain-science treatment.

The tools include animation explainers on pain recovery, a website which aims to help people think differently about pain and a Permission to Move book to help clinicians treat pain in an evidence-based way.

"We did a 100-person sample control study where we used this methodology which was taught through Telehealth with an income protection insurer," Moen said.

"That showed really good effects on improving function and reducing pain and improving return to work rates, and that for us is this sort of proof of concept."

The final product is an online affiliate program for clinicians.

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