National Pain Week: hear from our pain management experts

National Pain Week 2023 is Australia’s annual awareness event for chronic pain.

To help with raising the profile of this critical and often under-recognised health issue, we asked our pain researchers for their views on the topic. Here’s what they had to say.

Professor Rachelle Buchbinder, Director of the Department of Clinical Epidemiology, Monash University School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine

“Arthritis and musculoskeletal conditions cause significant pain and are a major cause of disability globally. Their prevalence is increasing with the ageing of the population.

“While there have been significant beneficial advances in treatments for inflammatory arthritis in the last two decades, overtesting, overdiagnosis and overtreatment of other musculoskeletal conditions such as low back pain, shoulder pain and knee pain persist.

“National Pain Week gives us the opportunity to reflect upon how low value health care for pain, that provides no benefits to patients and might cause harm, is contributing to the burden of these conditions. Addressing public and clinician misconceptions about best evidence-based care for these conditions remains a major health challenge globally, including in Australia.”

Read more from Professor Buchbinder on Monash Lens

Professor David Clarke, Professor of Psychological Medicine, Monash University

"Chronic pain is very common, and very difficult to experience. It is the leading cause of disability worldwide, and saps a person's energy and morale. It is a puzzle why some pains become chronic, though we know that chronic pain does not signify persistent injury; rather, it is associated with abnormal neural signalling on a background of complex biopsychosocial factors, between body and mind.

“The consequence of this is that the usual things we do when we acutely injure ourselves – rest and medication– do not help. Instead, they can lead to further complications such as drug addiction and depression. Multidisciplinary rehabilitation-style programs are what is needed.

“A focus on chronic pain can help raise awareness of the problem, reduce stigma about it, and mobilise action for a lot more research, treatment, care and compassion."

Read more about Professor David Clarke

Dr Pallavi Prathivadi, Adjunct Senior Lecturer, EPIC, Monash University

“With increasing rates of chronic disease, multimorbidity and an ageing population, we will continue to see increasing rates of chronic pain. The cost of pain is enormous, to people, health systems and economies. The emotional and physical load suffered by people with chronic pain needs deep compassion and patience. The loss of function, productivity and wellbeing that commonly occurs with chronic pain needs far more awareness, discussion and improvement.

“In my expertise as a specialist GP and opioid policy researcher, I urge for more systems-level interventions to support and treat people with chronic pain. Increased subsidisation of non-pharmaceutical treatment (such as physiotherapy and pain psychological services), multidisciplinary pain management programs and pain education can help improve safety in chronic pain treatment. Efforts need to help reduce unsafe or unnecessary opioid prescriptions (and related morbidity and mortality), improve prescriber and healthcare stigma towards people with chronic pain, improve reimbursement to providers of pain management care, and incentivise evidence-based treatment approaches.”

Read more about Dr Prathivadi’s research and practice expertise.

About Monash University

Monash University is Australia’s largest university with more than 80,000 students. In the 60 years since its foundation, it has developed a reputation for world-leading high-impact research, quality teaching, and inspiring innovation.

With four campuses in Australia and a presence in Malaysia, China, India, Indonesia and Italy, it is one of the most internationalised Australian universities.

As a leading international medical research university with the largest medical faculty in Australia and integration with leading Australian teaching hospitals, we consistently rank in the top 50 universities worldwide for clinical, pre-clinical and health sciences.

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