Help for those with chronic pain

Two new research projects are seeking to improve care and treatment for people suffering with chronic pain.

Your generous donations are supporting a pilot project by Dr Amelia Searle which looks to better identify people presenting to Flinders Medical Centre’s Emergency Department (ED) with chronic pain who might benefit from more specialised telephone coaching support from the hospital’s Pain Management Unit.

“Often when patients have a flare up of pain, they can get quite desperate and if they can’t get back to their GP they often end up in ED… but this isn’t necessarily the best place for them to be and they can’t be treated there in a long-term way,” Dr Searle said.

“So we’re looking to pinpoint who might benefit from some support to help put strategies in place to manage their chronic pain so they don’t re-present quickly to the ED.

“That might be getting them back to their GP or linking them in with some allied health support so they can take some control in their own pain management.”

Flinders Medical Centre is home to one of South Australia’s three pain units and is comprised of pain physicians, psychologists, physiotherapists, nurses and other health professionals. The unit conducts between 600-650 appointments each month, including about 130 new patient referrals.

Chronic pain can erode people’s quality of life and increase the rates of depression and anxiety, as well as impact the ability to work, socialise and carry out other daily tasks.

The Pain Management Unit’s focus is not only on trying to reduce pain, but on trying to find ways to help patients cope and live with pain.

Another project by Dr Cindy Wall will evaluate a chronic pain education program held in the unit twice a week.

“We know these pain education sessions are a helpful introduction so people know what to expect from the unit and also provide useful information to start to engage in the self-management process,” Dr Wall said.

“After a session some might choose to go out into the community to seek services independent of the pain unit which better match their needs. And for those who choose to come into the pain clinic, then their outcomes will be so much better as they know what to expect from the service and are willing to actively participate in the programs on offer.

“All patients are invited to the education sessions but for whatever reason only about 50 per cent attend, so we want to look at what things we can do to improve that uptake.”

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