Wednesday, March 9, 2011


One in five Australians will suffer from chronic pain at some point in their life. Unfortunately, many sufferers do not have their condition adequately treated. Indeed, chronic pain is grossly undertreated, with many Australians experiencing constant pain and enormous disruption to their lives.

Chronic pain is associated with higher rates of depression and anxiety as well as sleep disturbance and insomnia due to medication.

In addition, chronic pain amounts to several billion dollars a year in health care costs, lost income and lost productivity. Some figures put the costs at over $30 billion in Australia, with comparable costs recorded in countries such as Canada and the United Kingdom.

Chronic pain is sometimes defined officially as pain lasting more than 6 months. It may also be accurate to define chronic pain as pain that has no clear end in sight. It may be something that you will have to learn to live with - or around.

Anyone who has lived with chronic pain, or has treated patients with chronic pain, eventually comes to the understanding that the chronic pain is a disease in and of itself, regardless of what is causing the pain. Got that? A disease in and of itself, being a disease of the central nervous system which affects all of the neural pathways (cognitive, sensory, emotional, motivational and modulatory).

I know the reality of chronic pain: see my blog on neck and shoulder pain and associated headaches.

In a previous blog of October 2010 I wrote about the use of mindfulness meditation as a means of pain management. 

A recent study of patients with chronic pain in St James's Hospital, Dublin attempted to find out how mindfulness-based stress reduction might help them.

Consultants picked patients deemed suitable for mindfulness training. Some 87 patients were invited to attend a course in mindfulness-based stress reduction. Of those 87, 35 took part and out of that number 25 completed the course. These patients reported "great benefit". When their wellbeing was measured, it was deemed to have increased significantly.

The results of the study from the Department of Pain Medicine in St James's Hospital were recently outlined at a conference in the Royal College of Surgeons.

The recommendation of the study is that an online course should be developed for patients who cannot travel to the hospital.

Among the main causes of chronic pain are arthritis, cancer, diabetes and road traffic accidents. Sports injuries are also becoming a growing cause of chronic pain.

You may wish to check out Chronic Pain Australia, which is one of the lead organisations in the development of the Australian National Pain Strategy. Another useful website is that of Pain

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