The effects of sitting for hours on end
The effects of sitting for hours on end

We’ve been wrong about pain all along

DOCTORS will be sent back to school to be re-educated about treating chronic pain and patients given a Medicare boost under a new national strategy.

And doctors will be sent back to school to be re-educated about pain and told to stop prescribing drugs and start ordering exercise and psychological management strategies to treat it.

The first ever national pain strategy launching tomorrow also calls for a national one stop website to be set up to educate people about how to manage pain without drugs and where to find help.

"There is a screaming need here because pain is a significant burden on the economy, on society and the health system," said Pain Australia CEO Carol Bennett.

More than 3.24 million Australians are living with chronic pain and many are becoming addicted to opioid medications while they wait up to four years to see a pain specialist for help.

 

Australians are addicted to pain medications. Picture: Getty Images
Australians are addicted to pain medications. Picture: Getty Images

Last year Australians paid $2.7 billion in out-of-pocket expenses to manage their pain and 9.9 million days of work were missed because of the condition.

Eight in 10 people living with chronic pain caused by injury, cancer, surgery, nerve damage, arthritis, migraine musculoskeletal damage or other causes are missing out on treatment that could improve their health and quality of life.

The health and lost productivity costs of pain will rise from $139.3 billion in 2018 to an estimated $215.6 billion by 2050 a recent study found.

The new strategy funded by the Federal Government and developed by Pain Australia wants pain to be treated in the same way as mental health with Medicare funding up to 20 medical and groups sessions to help people get it under control.

It also calls for a new certificate in pain medicine for GPs and other health professionals that would require six months study.

A public database would inform patients which practitioners have completed the course and GPs with the specialist qualification should be able to access special Medicare rebates to provide pain treatment, the plan says.

 

Back pain should be treated with exercise, not medication.
Back pain should be treated with exercise, not medication.

The consultation work that took place around the development of the new plan found doctors' knowledge about the latest pain management techniques are out of date.

"For lower back pain people are popping pills and having surgery but for the last 15 years we've known you've got to get moving, and rehabilitate yourself with physical management," Ms Bennett said.

Anti-inflammatory medications should not be used for more than a few days and long term strengthening of the muscles, good nutrition and sleep were the key to treating the problem rather than drugs, she said.

Instead of helping patients manage pain in this way doctors were prescribing increasing amounts of dangerous and addictive opiod medicines.

Scripts for these drugs rose by 30 per cent between 2009 and 2014 and the rate of opiod induced deaths almost doubled in 10 years, from 3.8 to 6.6 deaths per 100,000 Australians between 2007 and 2016.

Get moving to cure pain. Picture: istock
Get moving to cure pain. Picture: istock

A recent study reported at the Choosing Wisely conference last month found patients were being discharged from hospital with 20 tablets of oxycodone without a plan to wean them off the drugs.

These medications are addictive and can actually be the cause of pain in people who use them for longer than a week.

The pain people experience is caused by stopping the medicine rather than because of their medical condition.

In coming weeks the plan will be presented to the Council of Australian Government's for endorsement.

Pain Australia CEO Carol Bennett is urging state and federal governments to provide the funding to put the plan into action.



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