Experts focus on pain burden

SEAN Tims has lived in chronic pain for six years and firmly believes more needs to be done to help ­people battling against similar issues in Tasmania.

Mr Tims’ calls come ahead of ­National Pain Week this week, which aims to reduce the isolation of people living with pain by bringing together health care professionals, sufferers and families.

As part of the initiative, Chronic Pain Australia (CPA) has urged the Federal Government to strengthen primary care for people who may be blocked from treatment due to ­systemic barriers. CPA surveys in May and June found that one in five Australians live with chronic pain.

They also discovered the average cost of pain treatments nationally has more than doubled during the past eight years to $473 a month, while the medication spend had increased 53 per cent to $152 a month.

Hobart man Mr Tims, 42, said he was on a disability support pension following a lengthy battle with chronic back pain originally caused by a bulging disc in his spine.

After surgery to remove the damaged disc in 2012 he developed ­severe back pain and sciatic pain down both legs.

He was referred to the Metro Pain Group in Melbourne and was advised to trial a spinal cord stimulation system.

However, three years later congenital issues with his foot required a below-the-knee amputation.

Mr Tims then began experiencing severe and chronic phantom limb pain in his residual limb.

He recently had a new treatment system known as dorsal root ganglion stimulation implanted in his spine to ease the phantom pain. He also uses a high-frequency spinal cord stimulation system for his chronic back and sciatic pain.

Mr Tims said there were many ­issues in Tasmania for people suffering pain.

“I think in the Tasmanian pain management field, the specialists don’t have the expertise of those on the mainland,” he said.

CPA president Coralie Wales said people living with pain were not ­receiving the care needed.

“GPs are the primary port of call for many pain sufferers but most don’t have adequate training in pain management, or the time and ­resources,” Dr Wales said.

National Pain Week begins today and finishes on Sunday.

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Originally published as Experts focus on sufferer’s burden

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