Treating chronic pain

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St Andrew’s War Memorial Hospital expands its Multidisciplinary Pain Service

St Andrew’s War Memorial Hospital in Brisbane has expanded its Multidisciplinary Pain Service with the opening  in September of a dedicated six-bed inpatient unit.

Deputy Chief Medical Officer of UnitingCare Health and St Andrew’s Director of Medical Services, Dr Christian Rowan, said the new medical unit addressed the growing need for treatment facilities for people suffering from chronic pain and associated issues, including dependence on pharmaceuticals.

“Chronic or persistent pain is Australia’s third most costly health condition, and people with chronic pain are at increased risk of depression, anxiety and social isolation,” Dr Rowan said. “One in five Australians will suffer chronic pain in their lifetime and this figure rises to one in three people over the age of 65.

“Along with the increased prevalence of chronic pain in the community we are seeing a rise in sales of prescription and over-the-counter painkillers and higher rates of addiction and substance dependency. The new St Andrew’s Multidisciplinary Pain Service (StAMPS) Pain and Dependency Unit will provide integrated services in a supportive environment for people who require investigation, assessment, stabilisation and treatment of both chronic pain and substance dependency. The unit will provide patients the opportunity to detoxify and commence rehabilitation in a controlled environment with medical, nursing and allied health support,” said Dr Rowan. Dr Rowan, who is also Medical Director of Addiction Sciences Queensland, said dependency on prescription opioid analgesics, over-the-counter painkillers and illicit drugs were growing problems in Australia.

According to the latest 2013 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare National Drug Strategy Household Survey results, misuse of pharmaceuticals has risen from 3.7% in 2007 to 4.7% in 2013. Among people surveyed who reported recent misuse of any kind of painkiller or analgesic, about three quarters had misused over-the-counter painkillers and half had misused prescription painkillers.

Dr Rowan said research had shown that chronic, non-malignant pain was best managed using an integrated, interdisciplinary approach, which StAMPS provides with access to medical specialists in pain, addiction and rehabilitation medicine, as well as a comprehensive outpatient program involving psychologists, physiotherapists and occupational therapists.

“The new St Andrew’s Pain and Dependency inpatient unit complements the established and successful outpatient pain program, which provides a focus on cognitive behavioural therapy, education on the neurophysiology of pain, and graded physical activity,” he said. “While the inpatient unit comprises six beds, that number is likely to grow to meet community demand for services.”

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