GET HELP: Pain Australia is calling for better management of post-surgery chronic pain.
GET HELP: Pain Australia is calling for better management of post-surgery chronic pain. Wavebreakmedia Ltd

Post-surgery pain care is vital

THE GLOBAL Year Against Pain After Surgery campaign is about calling for more attention to the management of surgery-induced chronic pain - one of 200 diagnosed pains - which many people fail to resolve.

The International Association for the Study of Pain reports persistent post-surgical pain can affect as many as one in two patients undergoing major surgery such as amputations, and one in four for all kinds of surgery combined.

Pain Australia chief executive officer Lesley Brydon says patients need better advice before surgery.

"Despite the prevalence of post-surgical pain, it is worrying that most people are ill-informed about the risk and unprepared for how to live with the pain, should it happen to them," she said.

"Normally you go into surgery and you think it's going to fix everything. Most patients are not told of the risk that they can come away and have a whole new problem, a whole different type of pain."

Short-term or acute pain after surgery is normal and is expected to disappear within a few days.

The pain that doesn't disappear is a different type of pain to the post-surgical pain and often relates to nerve damage causing neuropathic pain.

"That is characterised by very sharp, stabbing pain. It's not like a back pain which is heavy, debilitating, nasty pain," Ms Brydon said.

The link between the severity of pain in the 10 days or so after surgery and the development of long-term pain is so strong that Pain Australia is clear in its advice that "adequate pain relief immediately after surgery is critical to preventing ongoing pain".

A co-ordinated assessment and management of physical, psychological and environmental risk factors identified for a patient is the next step in finding pain management answers.

However, Pain Australia reports there are long waiting lists for pain management clinics and poor integration with primary health care and community-based services.

Added to that, Medicare and private health insurance doesn't cover pain management. As a result, cheap, unproven or ineffective treatments are being used.

"Pain medicine and palliative medicine are established in Australia as independent medical specialities, and our research and education programs are internationally recognised," Ms Brydon said

"The need (now) is to translate what we know about what works into effective delivery of pain management across the health care system."

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