To kick off National Pain Awareness Week, Chronic Pain Australia has published a survey, delving into the lives of people living with chronic pain and what they think needs to be done to improve their situation.
The survey, which is released annually, specifically asked this year’s participants what they felt they needed from medical professionals, the government and even the wider community to better manage their condition. More than 1,300 participated in this year’s research, providing interesting insight into what it’s like to live with chronic pain in Australia.
While 90 per cent of people felt their GP managed their pain, others said they needed their GP to hear them, empathise with them and not to judge them when they visited them with chronic pain issues. They didn’t want to be rushed and wanted GPs to know that needing medication doesn’t automatically make them a junkie.
Others wanted GPs to research more about pain conditions, prescribe medication and to listen to a patient’s whole story to understand and relieve the pain they’re experiencing.
When asked if there was one thing a GP could do to manage pain, 75 per cent of respondents said they wanted to be prescribed cannabis to manage their pain. One in two respondents also wanted their pharmacist to lobby for their right to dispense medical cannabis, while a third wanted the government to legalise the drug.
They also wanted the wider community to be more understanding of those who use cannabis to treat chronic pain.
For many, they wanted acknowledgment from the government that pain is a valid disability and that they should be entitled to access to the Disability Support Pension and Health Care card. A total of 98 per cent believe the federal government isn’t doing enough to support people living with chronic pain.
Others wanted greater financial support by raising the Newstart allowance, listing chronic pain as a valid option on the Disability Support Pension and to provide greater funding to make healthcare more accessible and affordable.
Just over 70 per cent of respondents thought the government’s decision to ban over-the-counter codeine earlier this year was unfair, explaining they’ve needed to increase their GP visits and that it was unfair because they weren’t addicted or misusing the medication. Others said they used the medication to treat unpredictable pain and that they even go to the emergency department now if they experience a flare up and don’t have a script.
Overwhelmingly, 86 per cent said they experienced stigma or negative attitudes about their pain, admitting the feel like a drug seeker or that their pain isn’t taken seriously by doctors. Others are told they’re faking their condition, while they’re judged because there isn’t always a physical sign of the pain. This can make them feel uncomfortable when parking in a disabled car space.
Those with pain wanted the public to know the pain they experience is real. It impacts them and their families emotionally, physically and financially and that when they say they can’t work, it’s because they’re symptoms are simply too severe. It can also impact mental health by making people feel anxious and depressed. Nearly 91 per cent said it was important for the public to understand chronic pain.