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Unrelieved pain: are we making progress? Shared education for general practitioners and specialists is the best way forward

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The National Pain Strategy is driving improvements in pain management, but greater impetus is needed

One in five people are afflicted by chronic pain in Australia, with many experiencing severe disability.1,2 Such disability is strongly correlated with greater use of health resources and increasing reliance on disability support payments.3 Low back pain is now the number one cause of years lived with disability in Australia and globally.

A key Australian study was the first to report that people with chronic pain who use “active” self-management strategies experience markedly reduced disability, compared with those who rely on “passive” treatments such as medication and massage.2 A wide range of other effective treatments and a recommended treatment framework are detailed in the National Pain Strategy (NPS). However, a nationwide study of access to pain services reported major inadequacies, with average wait times of 150 days,4 and a Canadian study reported adverse outcomes of waiting for access to treatment for chronic pain.5

The widespread prescription and misuse of opioids in chronic pain, often associated with adverse events, further highlights the need for improved…