Chronic pain is an epidemic. The sheer size of the problem facing our society is huge. We luckily don’t have as large an opioid/ pain killer epidemic as the USA, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have a problem.
Painful Facts from Pain Australia about public health.
One in five Australians live with chronic pain, including adolescents and children. This prevalence rises to one in three people over the age of 65.
One in five GP consultations involves a patient with chronic pain and almost five percent report severe, disabling chronic pain.
The prevalence of chronic pain is projected to increase as Australia's population ages.
Dollars and cents
Chronic pain is Australia's third most costly health condition after cardiovascular diseases and musculoskeletal conditions (also associated with chronic pain).
Arthritis and back problems, both associated with chronic pain, are the most common reasons people of working age (between 45 and 64) drop out of the workforce, accounting for 40% of forced retirements.
Productivity costs associated with arthritis and other musculoskeletal conditions alone were estimated to cost the economy more than $7.4 billion in 2012.
The annual cost of pelvic pain alone in Australia is $6 billion. It affects 5% of girls and women and equates to 11 hours of productivity a week.
Early intervention and adoption of evidence-based treatment could halve the economic cost of chronic pain, estimated at $34 billion.
Not everyone gets the help they need or deserve
Less than 10% of people with chronic non-cancer pain gain access to effective care, even though current knowledge would allow 80% to be treated effectively, if there was adequate access to pain services.
Patients face long waiting times to access multidisciplinary pain services in public hospitals — frequently more than a year — resulting in deterioration in quality of life and reduction in ability to return to work.
Lack of access to services is especially critical in rural, regional and remote areas and indigenous communities.
The Faculty of Pain Medicine of the Australian and New Zealand College of Anesthetists reports that there are only 275 pain medicine specialists practicing in Australia and they are unable to meet the needs of 20% of the population. Twice as many palliative care physicians are trained every year compared with pain specialists.
There are only 12 paediatric pain specialists in the whole of Australia, and some jurisdictions have none at all.
There are only six dedicated multidisciplinary paediatric pain services in Australia and only one of these in a regional centre.
This sets the scene for pain and our education. This is quite scary. We all need to start talking and learning about pain, and we hope to help educate you over the next month. Our plan is to make pain generally less dangerous and to let you know that we are here to help you should you require help with your foot ankle and leg pain.
image credit to NOI Group, https://www.noigroup.com/