Painful truths: Is chronic pain crippling you and your wallet?

One in three Australians aged over 65 lives with chronic pain and up to 80 per cent of aged care residents. It is often under-treated or poorly managed.

As the population gets older, the need to prevent and manage pain becomes more urgent, both for personal wellbeing and to stem lost productivity and health costs.

For those who experience it, chronic pain can be debilitating and have an adverse effect on work, sleep, and relationships.

Individuals with chronic pain may also experience depression, sleep disturbance and fatigue.

Pain Australia CEO Carol Bennett aptly described the situation:

“There is a screaming need here, because pain is a significant burden on the economy, on society and the health system.”

National strategy

A new National Strategic Action Plan for Pain Management seeks to raise awareness about better pain management and cut back the growing reliance on pain medications.

The strategy found a 30% increase in opioid prescriptions in the five years to 2014, leading to a rising number of people dying from accidental overdosing.

Key strategic goals include:

  • making people living with pain a national health priority, and supporting their participation in work and the community
  • improved skilling of health practitioners
  • minimising chronic pain through prevention and early intervention strategies.

The strategy calls for a range of actions to address the problem of chronic pain, including education and expansion of Medicare funded services.

Tips for managing pain

Before you head to the medicine cabinet, consider this: medication like aspirin and ibuprofen can cause stomach ulcers, water retention and increased blood pressure.

Your genetics might also play a role in limiting the effectiveness of medicines.

“Codeine does not work for 10 per cent of people because of their DNA,” says CEO of Ward Medication Management, Fiona Rhody-Nicoll.

“A DNA test can determine if the painkillers you are taking are being activated by your liver and inform you which painkillers are best for you.”

Other tips to improve pain management include:

  • Daily stretching, walking and staying active
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Focusing your attention on something other than the pain, like listening to music
  • Reviewing your medication regularly with a qualified health professional, such as a clinical pharmacist. This may be done through a Home Medicines Review or program such as Ward MM Thrive.

Through our partnership with Ward Medication Management, National Seniors Australia members are eligible for a 6% saving on their Ward MM Thrive 12 month subscription service at a reduced cost.

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Chronic pain - another symptom of a health system in crisis?

$2.7 billion was spent managing chronic pain last year. The cost of treating this pain is ultimately born by you as tax payer or as an individual patient.

Managing pain better and preventing conditions that contribute to pain will undoubtedly lead to better health outcomes for you and reduce the financial burden on us all.

Health is the number one issue for older Australians.

That’s why National Seniors is working to reduce out-of-pocket health care costs for seniors. But we need your help.

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