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Chronic pain sufferers call for better funding

The Australian Physiotherapy Association is calling on the federal government to properly fund evidence-based treatments to support the multidisciplinary care requirements of those living with chronic pain.

Chronic pain affects one in five Australians and is the country’s third most costly health burden and a leading cause of early retirement and absenteeism.

The cost of the condition is estimated at $73 billion a year and levels of distress are six times higher for those with chronic pain.

A survey by Chronic Pain Australia showed that while the majority of chronic pain sufferers wanted to see health professionals, many of these services were unaffordable due to a lack of subsidy.

Medicare funding for chronic pain occurs via a Chronic Disease Management Plan provided by a GP, which only allows for five sessions of physiotherapy.

The APA is calling on the government during National Pain Week to address the gap in health care as many treatments are non-subsidised and costly.

“We need to turn around the cycle of increasing disability that many chronic pain sufferers become part of, simply because they are unable to access the best treatments when they need them. Physiotherapists should be part of every health team treating chronic pain,” said chair of the APA Pain group Dianne Wilson.

Ms Wilson said movement was one of the best things for people with chronic pain, and physios were often able to help guide individuals through a program to suit their needs.

“Movement helps the body heal and boosts the immune system. Avoiding healthy activities often leads to an increase of disability and further loss of wellbeing,” she said.

Ms Wilson said the current five sessions were not enough and funding was needed to get to a point where the risk factors for the development of chronic pain were identified and therefore eliminated earlier.

“In the meantime, properly funding evidence-based health treatments for those who are in significant pain is the only way to support their improved health, quality of life and re-integration into their communities,” she said.

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