Coping with chronic pain is an ongoing challenge

DEBILITATING: National Pain Week highlights how many Australians battle chronic pain . Picture: Shutterstock.
DEBILITATING: National Pain Week highlights how many Australians battle chronic pain . Picture: Shutterstock.

Chronic pain can have significant impact on a person's ability to work, form relationships, and live an ordinary life as well has have a seriously detrimental effect on the mental health of people living with the condition.

Chronic pain is arguably Australia and the world's fastest growing medical condition.

However, by working with various health practitioners and taking a long-term approach, people living with chronic pain can start to combat some of the effects it has on their lives and manage their pain the best they can.

National Pain Week is an annual initiative of Chronic Pain Australia, the national voice of more than 3.2 million Australians of all ages who live with this invisible illness.

The week aims to de-stigmatise the experiences of people living with chronic pain while also championing the need for the voice of people living with chronic pain to be heard when any related health policy is developed.

This year's theme for National Pain Week is 'Faces of Pain'. to help remove some of the myths and stigma surrounding chronic pain and what someone with it looks like and how they live with pain.

National President of Chronic Pain Australia, Jarrod McMaugh said they chose this theme because the community often speak of the stigma associated with chronic pain.

"Those in pain face challenges because others can't relate or understand what life is like with persistent pain We hope by showing what it's like to live with pain, people will also learn what they can do to manage pain if they ever develop it in the future," he said.

Pain is an unpleasant experience in the body. Acute pain is a message in the body warning about danger, whereas chronic pain can have much more complex origins and functions. The nervous system is used to transmit signals around the body to indicate pain.

Acute pain is the pain many of us have experienced from time to time. We hurt ourselves (cut, pull, strain), experience pain, then heal and the pain goes away.

Chronic or persistent pain is pain that lasts for more than three months, or in many cases, beyond normal healing time.

It doesn't obey the same rules as acute pain. It can be seen as somewhat of a mystery. It can be caused by ongoing disease states like arthritis in all its forms, cancer, lupus, multiple sclerosis or any of a myriad of conditions.

It is debilitating, exhausting and has an impact on all parts of a person's life. Living like this takes courage and strength and could be referred to as "putting up with" the pain.

De-stigmatising chronic pains saves lives through reducing the social isolation that inherently follows this invisible condition.

The theme of National Pain Week this year is 'Faces of Pain'. Chronic Pain Australia will launch two new resources to help Australians understand and manage pain. A video series called Faces of Pain, which tells the stories of everyday Australians living with chronic pain and a booklet called 'Understanding chronic pain' to explain what pain is and how best to manage it. Both are available on line from July 27.

The personal video stories come from a range of people from across the country, from different ages and backgrounds and with different experiences of developing, managing and learning to live with their chronic pain.

"We're really hopeful that the video series can give people who don't live with pain an insight into what a day living with pain looks like and how everyday activities we all encounter in life can be made harder or impossible for someone living with chronic pain. We also want the video series to act as a source of inspiration for people currently living with pain to learn from their peers and to know that they aren't alone in their pain journey."

"We know that when pain is managed well, it is only because a person living with pain has a great GP, pharmacist and are probably seeing some sort of allied health professional or specialist, but getting the right combination of health professionals to support you and making sure you are asking for the right types of support can be difficult. That's why we have created our booklet."

Leaders in the medical and political communities are encouraged to support the initiative and engage with Chronic Pain Australia to look at ways they can better develop their understanding of the condition. www.nationalpainweek.org.au for further information.