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program brings chronic pain expertise out of the hospital and into the community

More clients are receiving the expertise and support they need to manage their pain sooner, thanks to a specialised chronic pain program within community health.

It’s widely known that people who self-manage their long-term pain lead happier, more fulfilled lives. But ongoing, chronic pain (lasting 3 months or more) is complex. Medical, physical and psycho-social factors all contribute to the persistence.

Chronic pain is less about what is happening in the body and more about what is occurring in the brain. Learning about pain is proven to alleviate it.

That’s where cohealth’s Living Well with Pain program comes in. The partnership between cohealth and the Barbara Walker Centre for Pain Management at St Vincent’s Hospital started – virtually – in November 2020. As COVID-19 restrictions ease, the program is planned to be delivered face-to-face to groups of 12 people, with each program running for 4 weeks. From July, programs will also be run with culturally specific groups.

Results are encouraging. Corinne, who recently participated in the program, has rheumatoid arthritis, a disabling, progressive autoimmune disease that causes inflammation and swelling in and around the joints. She has been living with persistent pain for more than 15 years.

Corinne’s main goal was to decrease her medication and get moving. She wanted to “live her life rather than just existing”. After just one session, Corinne felt better. “I was still a bit confused about the concept of pain and how it works but the staff listened to me and I knew they were going to find a way to help me live my life better”.

Prior to participating in the program, Corinne would occasionally need to go to the hospital. “You wait for too long and nothing shows up in the tests. It made me feel worse.”

Her experience is not uncommon. Many people suffering chronic pain are referred to a clinic within a hospital, but some are too intimidated to go, others are unable to travel there, and almost everyone endures long wait times.

Treatment through this program involves a mixture of psychology and exercise, which slowly allows the body to re-learn pain-free movement. Practical skills include goal setting, activity pacing, flare up planning, stress management, relaxation and sleep hygiene.

There is an initial comprehensive assessment with a physiotherapist and psychologist, where the client’s history of pain is explored to understand the different things that may be contributing.

The program has significantly improved Corinne’s life. “I haven’t taken a pain killer or anti-inflammatory since taking the course. That’s not to say I haven’t felt pain, I just perceive it differently now. I’ve enrolled myself in the Mother’s Day Walk and I’m thinking I may even be able to do a jog every now and then.”

 

For more information about the program go to Living Well With Pain.

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