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Pain education vital to improving health outcomes in rural Australia

Photo: Professor Moseley speaks at Pain Revolution gathering.
It's well known that people living in rural, regional and remote areas of Australia have less access to services and are at increased risk of poor health outcomes, and when it comes to chronic pain, they severely lack in both preventative and management resources, said Carol Bennett, CEO Pain Australia.

As a result, there is a greater reliance on pain medication to treat acute or chronic pain, and in some regional areas, the rate of opioid prescription is ten times that of other regions.

“Australia is in an epidemic of prescribed opioid misuse, yet this issue has barely made it onto the public agenda. 

“It is indisputable that nearly all opioid prescribing has its origins in efforts to manage acute or chronic pain, yet the public discussion about how we could manage pain better and more safely is still focussed on drug addiction and dependency,” said Ms Bennett.
One way that rural, regional and remote Australia can implement best practice in pain management is through pain education programs, such as the Pain Revolution’s Local Pain Educator Program, which trains local health professionals in pain management and education.

Professor Lorimer Moseley, a pain scientist, established the Pain Revolution to provide knowledge, skills and support to those experiencing acute and chronic pain and to equip healthcare providers with tools to help patients overcome persistent pain.

The Pain Revolution’s annual flagship event, Pain Revolution Rural Outreach Tour, takes this knowledge to rural and regional communities and sets up local pain networks to provide sustainable capacity.

Persistent pain is one the most burdensome health issues for those living in rural, regional and remote areas of Australia due to limited resources and health care capacity, explained Prof. Moseley.

“The best evidence we have points to much better outcomes if we support the general public and health professionals to understand the best approach to recovery and how to deliver the best care locally.

“Our vision is bold but not unrealistic - that all Australians will have access to the knowledge, skills and local support to prevent and overcome persistent pain.

“Our strategies are playing the long game - we won't be able to evaluate Pain Revolution for several years fully, but all preliminary markers are great.

“[We have] good attendance at all events; participants indicate that they see pain differently and are more hopeful about their options; and health professionals gain the confidence to help people with persistent pain," said Prof. Moseley.

Learning about pain science is powerful, explained Prof. Moseley, with best practice guidelines recommending education, active and psychological strategies, and self-management skills as the best way to prevent and treat chronic pain.

What is the Pain Revolution?
The Pain Revolution is a multiple strategy movement to change the way the general public understand pain so that it is more in line with current scientific understanding.

The movement also aims to change the expectations of the general public about what is best practice, to be more in line with current scientific understanding, and to build the capacity of the health professionals in rural, regional and remote areas of Australia to deliver best practice pain education and care.

Ms Bennett said the Local Pain Educator Program is a proven way to move towards best-practice pain management by increasing the capacity of health practitioners.

“The Pain Revolution's Local Pain Educator Program embeds capacity in regional and rural communities in pain management and education. 

“Broadening capacity within existing primary and community health services in general pain management services is a cost-effective way of addressing issues,” said Ms Bennett. 

The Local Pain Educator Program (LPE)

Angie Clerc-Hawke, Local Pain Educator Project Manager, said the LPE program is a community-based health promotion initiative, which focuses on capacity building.

“We recruit health professionals from across disciplines and sectors in rural and regional communities, to receive scholarships into a two-year program to become Local Pain Educators,” said Ms Clerc-Hawke.

The Local Pain Educator Program includes:

• Access to an online professional certificate in pain science.

• One-on-one mentoring with a leader in the field to assist with consolidating what the LPEs are learning at tertiary level and translating this knowledge to a community audience.

• Networking for a variety of activities (expert speaker webinars, peer-to-peer exchange teleconferences, face-to-face workshop, and online discussion forums for idea and resource exchange).

• An education toolkit for delivering education sessions.

“This all culminates to the LPEs providing free pain education to fellow health professionals and the general public within their communities.

“It is a whole-of-community approach to changing the way people understand and treat people in pain.

“It has been inspiring to watch a growing community of committed and passionate people, supporting each other to make real change in their home towns,” said Ms Clerc-Hawke.

A first-year LPE, said: "I have learned and grown in my confidence and pain knowledge so much, and I can already see the positive impact that is having on people around me."

Physiotherapist Jason Bradley said Prof Moseley's work in the field of understanding and educating people on pain has revolutionised the way physiotherapists work with patients.

“By recognising that chronic pain is often not related to continued structural damage, we can focus on achieving better outcomes for patients.

“By educating patients about the reality of their pain, the unlikelihood of causing catastrophic damage, on pacing activities and understanding their fear avoidances or anxieties, we can achieve great functional outcomes. 

“Without educating on the true nature of chronic pain and its divergent relationship to functional ability, therapists can unwittingly create patients as reliant on hands-on intervention as those addicted analgesic medications.

“Today our patients require the knowledge and education to be an active member of their health care team,” said Mr Bradley.

Help support a 2020 Local Pain Educator!  The 2019 Pain Revolution Rural Outreach Tour was an outrageous success. 20 events; 1450 participants; 700kms; 420 sandwiches. We are on $95k raised for our Local Pain Educator program. It’s not too late to add your little bit, click here.


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Haley Williams

Haley Williams has a Bachelor of Communication in Journalism and over a decade of experience in the media, marketing and communications industries.

She is a widely published journalist with a particular interest in writing magazine features on parenting, health, fitness, nutrition and education.

Before becoming a freelance journalist, Haley worked as a writer for NeoLife (a worldwide nutrition company), News Limited and APN News & Media.

Haley also has extensive experience as an SEO Content Writer and Digital Marketing Strategist.