Chronic pain is a common condition Australians continue to face everyday, with one in five Australians aged over 45 living with persistent and ongoing pain (source). Not only does chronic pain become a health burden to individuals, it is also becoming a financial detriment to the country, costing an estimated $139 million in 2018 in reduced quality of life and productivity losses.
As such, it is becoming important for members of the general public to develop their understanding of chronic pain, and potential pain management strategies. In this blog, we’ll cover the ACI (Agency for Clinical Innovation) Pain Management Network’s new research concerning chronic pain management and the various strategies available to individuals suffering from chronic pains.
Chronic Pain Management Basics
According to the ACI Pain Management Network, the goal of chronic pain treatment is to manage a patient’s physical functioning and emotional well-being, so that their overall quality of life is improved. When it comes to pain management, ‘active self-management’ is a key, alongside targeted medical support. Many chronic pain management strategies will require patients to practise pain-self management, and treatment methods may take between six to 12 months to show results.
There are many types of pain management strategies available to patients today, with four stand-outs detailed by the ACI Pain Management Network.
Biomedical Pain Management Strategies
These strategies include surgery, nerve blocks and western medication. They can be invasive (such as spinal cord and peripheral nerve stimulators) or non-invasive (such as anti-inflammatory analgesics, opioids and paracetamol).
Biomedical pain management strategies may also involve pharmacological treatment for mental disorders such as depression and anxiety.
Psychological Pain Management Strategies
Psychological treatments for chronic pain include cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) which aims to help patients address their patterns of thinking and behaviour in relation to their body and pain. CBT focuses on goal setting and overall mental health, as well as managing a pateints’ psychological relationship with pain.
Psychological pain management strategies may also involve lifestyle changes to improve sleeping patterns as well as develop mental coping skills for chronic pain.
Physical and hands-on therapy, when coupled with active self management, may help patients deal with chronic pain. In exercise therapy, physiotherapists, exercise physiologists, occupational therapists or other health professionals may recommend an activity or exercise program to help with motion therapy, postural training and muscle strengthening.
Physical therapy aims to increase a patient’s mobility and improve their ability to work and function comfortably.
Complementary Alternative Medical (CAM) Therapies
CAM refers to health care that is usually applied as complementary or in addition to traditional treatment approaches to chronic pain (such as those listed above).
There are many types of CAM therapies, each involving different chronic pain management strategies. They include:
- Mind-body interventions (such as counselling, meditation and creative therapies)
- Body-manipulative methods (such as massage, chiropractic care and acupuncture)
- Energy therapies (such as tai chi, reiki and therapeutic touch)
Before undertaking any of the chronic pain management strategies listed above, it is recommended that patients research and develop at least a basic understanding of chronic pain management, as well as visit a health practitioner for professional advice.
For example, patients looking to trial chiropractic should visit a health professional for information, in addition to a consultation with their local chiropractor (such as chiropractor Gladesville). Each case of chronic pain is different and it is important to understand the potential side effects of any chronic pain management strategy.