The cost of pain treatments – including physiotherapy and specialist appointments – has more than doubled since 2009, with the monthly spend rising from $231 to $473, according to research by Australia’s leading pain advocacy group.
The cost of pain medications has also increased by 53 per cent in same period.
Dr Coralie Wales, president of Chronic Pain Australia, says the future appears bleak for sufferers unless something is done to make treatment more affordable.
“If you live with chronic pain your life is really difficult on every front, financially, emotionally, socially; often people are quite isolated because of chronic pain,” Wales said.
“It’s a really draining, horrible experience.”
Increasingly the evidence shows a “team approach” is more effective in treating chronic pain as opposed to just relying on pharmaceuticals.
“A team of physios, psychologists and doctors and nurses that wrap around the person and provide the kind of holistic, whole person, approach that works,” Wales told AAP.
But most people can’t afford this complex care, creating a real dilemma for those living with chronic pain. Especially those in regional and rural areas, Wales said.
“If you are no longer able to work (as a result of pain) you become poor and so you might find yourself the recipient of a healthcare card and that really is your only pathway to getting access to something that is going to at least minimise or relieve the pain for a short time – and that’s medicine.”
“Of course if you take medicines for long enough there’s all sorts of side effects, you can’t escape it,” Wales said.
Taking heavy duty painkillers increases the potential for accidental overdoses, which is on the rise in Australia.
A new report, released by the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre on Monday, revealed the rate of accidental opioid deaths has more than doubled among Australians aged 35 to 44 since 2007.
With one-in-five Australians living with chronic pain, urgent action was required by the Federal Government to improve access to non-pharmaceutical therapies, Wales said.
Currently the services were “woeful”, she said.
“The reality is less than one per cent of people with chronic pain can access specialised pain clinics.”
Wales is also encouraging people to educate themselves and be “pain researchers”.
“There’s really good YouTube resources that explains chronic pain in a way that is understandable. Even just that is something that can start someone on a process of learning more and learning how to choose the right treatments.”
To learn about the free resources available people can visit www.nationalpainweek.org.au
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