Alternative approach to painkillers wheeled out to the bush

A group of pain researchers and clinicians from Australia and the US has cycled more than 870 km to share their pain management approach with regional and rural communities between Melbourne and Adelaide.

The Pain Revolution ride visited communities with some of the highest rates of opioid prescriptions in the country, as identified in the Australian Atlas of Healthcare Variation.

Cyclists were accompanied by the Brain Bus – an interactive learning centre featuring illusions, experiments and virtual reality applications to help people better understand pain.

Professor Lorimer Moseley, a clinical neuroscientist from the University of South Australia, said the outreach provided opportunities to engage with the public and health professionals and raise awareness about safer approaches to pain.

“I have a strong conviction that there is a better way to deal with both acute and persistent pain. The evidence is that the best we can do is provide education, reassurance and encourage self-managed recovery.”

“Opioids work short term but what we didn’t realise 15 years ago was how easily people develop tolerance and then addiction,” he said.

Professor Moseley said the best return on investment was to focus on improving management of acute pain given it was the major risk factor for persistent pain.

“We need to educate people to understand that pain is a protective device and help them learn and train their system to be less protective.”

He said a range of health professionals including physiotherapists, nurses and exercise physiologists could be trained and supported to act as local pain educators.

“We are already testing this model in other contexts,” he said.

He said his long-term vision was for pain educators to be attached to primary health networks and deliver low intensity CBT strategies as part of psychoeducative approach to pain.

He said almost everyone agreed there had to be an alternative to the high rates of people using opioids for chronic pain.

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