Addressing chronic pain in country SA

  • Nick Rendell from Advanced Physio Solutions in Moonta with a patient who suffers from chronic pain
    Nick Rendell from Advanced Physio Solutions in Moonta with a patient who suffers from chronic pain

Photo: Country SA PHN

A pilot project in four general practices on South Australia’s Yorke Peninsular is aimed at improving the management of chronic pain.

Many Australians all over the country live with pain as a part of their everyday life.

General practice is at the front-line of pain management efforts, particularly so in country areas. A national survey of Australian general practice estimates the prevalence of chronic pain among patients to be almost 20 per cent.

A majority of these patients with chronic pain rely on pharmacological management, with a third of these patients being prescribed opioids despite a lack of  evidence supporting the efficacy and safety of opioids for chronic non-cancer pain.
It’s these statistics that the pilot project is trying to change.

“Country SA PHN is partnering with Adelaide’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) Pain Management Unit to deliver a pilot project in four general practices to improve the effectiveness of chronic pain management through whole-of-person care,” said Country SA PHN Project Manager Noelene Cooper.

“Under the program, Pain Care Plans are developed for the referred patients who are involved with the trial and the intent is to allow them to receive multi-disciplinary, evidence-based care locally – all with the long-term aim of helping them to reduce and better manage their pain.

“This whole-of-person care plan is made possible by engaging with allied health providers and primary health care (PHC) nurses as an integral part of treating patients, in collaboration with their general practice”.

The QEH Pain Management Unit is providing expert chronic pain management advice to the referred patients as well as education to support allied health practitioners and PHC nurses to provide ongoing management of these patients.

“To date, 73 patients have been referred to the project and 41 patients have been reviewed by the QEH Pain Management Unit,” Noelene said.

“The project started in July 2017 and will run until June 2019. We’re monitoring patient outcomes closely and are confident that that whole-of-person care approach will offer significant benefits for patients and medical practitioners alike.

“The more we use evidence-based approaches to help Australians better manage their pain, the better.”

If feedback from trial participants is anything to go by, that aim looks set to be achieved.
“I have lived with a back injury for many years, which has been manageable until recently (the last few years). Being in constant pain day in, day out drastically reduced my quality of life.... not being as active as before and finding everyday chores difficult would result in me being in tears at the end of each day.

When it got suggested to me to be part of the trial, I'll admit I was sceptical at first, but thought I'll give it a go. I love the way that the program covers every aspect, the mind and the body. I have learnt how to read my body for signs and how to pace myself with everyday chores… Speaking to a psychologist is helping me regain my self-worth and confidence. I have also undertaken an exercise program with an exercise physiologist which I think is having the most benefit. The fact that I'm starting to feel stronger again has done wonders for me and my self-esteem. For the first time in a long time, I am not worrying about how my future is going to be.... I am starting to be more positive in general, and overall, enjoying life once more.

If the trial had not come here, I would still be in that very dark place I began to know as home. Overall, I am extremely grateful for the trial and for my involvement…. I do hope it will continue in the future to help others like me.”
Trial participant - Kadina


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