27 July 2018
National Pain Week: Chronic Pain – By Interchange Australia Consultant, Suzanne Eustace
3.2 million Australians experience chronic pain every day, 17.1% of men and 20% of women. The total number of people living with chronic pain in Australia is expected to increase to 5 million by 2050.*
If your pain has continued for longer than expected following surgery, trauma or other condition—usually three months—then it may be considered a chronic illness. Conditions such as migraine, osteoporosis, arthritis and other musculoskeletal ailments are well recognised chronic diseases.
Many people think that chronic pain means extreme pain. Although chronic pain can be really severe, “chronic” actually refers to how long the pain lasts rather than how severe it is. It doesn’t obey the same rules as acute pain. It can be seen as somewhat of a mystery. It can be caused by ongoing disease states like arthritis in all its forms, cancer, lupus, multiple sclerosis or any of a myriad of conditions. It can be a consequence of trauma (e.g. surgery, car or work accident, a fall). It can also be a consequence of a minor injury which leaves ongoing pain. Sometimes the long term nature of the pain is not indicating ongoing disease or damage. The longer the pain remains untreated, the greater the risk of the body becoming sensitised to pain, and the pain becoming chronic. Therefore, timely and effective treatment of acute pain is essential to prevent transition to chronic pain.
Older people and those living with a disability have the highest rates of chronic pain in our community. One in three people aged over 65 are living with chronic pain, one in four people with a profound disability experience severe pain, and two in three people with a spinal cord injury are affected by ongoing pain. In residential aged care, 92% of people are taking at least one analgesic medication daily and 80% of people report pain as a problem.
Chronic pain is a serious issue in people with impaired cognitive function. People who are unable to communicate their pain may be under-treated or inappropriately treated and therefore suffer unnecessarily. For people with dementia, it is estimated that pain may go undetected in as many as half of those with chronic pain conditions. It is debilitating, exhausting and has an impact on all parts of a person’s life.
If you are suffering from chronic pain, It is important to consult your GP and start talking about a management plan. Some of the newer ideas for treatment include regular exercise at a level you can handle, particularly core stability exercises, massage, pilates, listening to music as a distraction, easy water exercises, restorative yoga or meditation or a movement therapy like Feldenkrais. The idea is to get your body moving without straining your joints.
People who care for a family member or friend who lives with chronic pain, play a vital role in making sure that person’s chronic pain is managed correctly. This help leads to a better quality of life for the person living with chronic pain.
Sometimes it can be very hard to let other people do things that are too much for us, whether permanently or temporarily, and it can be even harder to give up things we like to do. It is good to do what we can, but not good to wear ourselves out by ignoring the facts of our health situation. Try to be honest with yourself as well as family and friends and accept help from others or ask for professional help to arrange assistance.
Interchange Australia provides a wide range of support services under the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), aged care services, hospital and home services and can also arrange private services to complement funded services or as stand-alone services.
For more information, please call one of our friendly and experienced consultants on 1300 112 334.