Painful facts: How to treat chronic pain

The burden of chronic pain is unrelenting for many Australians. Here’s how to treat it.

Painful facts: How to treat chronic pain

The burden of chronic pain is unrelenting for many Australians.

According to Pain Australia, one in five Australians live with chronic pain every day. This is expected to increase by 2050, when as many as five million will be likely to experience severe pain. 

Many sufferers seek effective chronic pain treatment and management.

Painkilling drugs such as Oxycontin and Endone are often prescribed by doctors, but many patients do not benefit from this method of pain control alone.

Some of these medications may also cause adverse side effects and lose efficacy over time, leaving patients searching for other options to help manage their chronic pain.

For some patients, chronic pain treatment isn’t as simple as conventional pain pills or regular treatments such as physiotherapy or acupuncture.

Effective therapeutic options for those living with chronic syndromes are limited. But newer options for the treatment of pain, such as medical marijuana, have proven pain-minimising benefits.

There are 30 countries that have approved the use of medical cannabis in some capacity and others that allow use within strict guidelines for the treatment of chronic pain and other illnesses.

Understanding chronic pain
Chronic pain is one of the most common and expensive medical conditions to treat in Australia. It’s also the leading cause of disability worldwide.

For pain to be considered chronic, it must last beyond the expected healing time (generally three to six months).

Chronic pain is a complex condition with no one-solution or quick fix for all. If it’s not well managed, it can also lead to various degrees of disability.

In recent years, Australia has recognised chronic pain as a serious medical condition which is also linked to mental health issues, psychological distress, interference with work, loss of productivity, loss of function, forced retirements and disabilities.

Who is most affected
Anyone can suffer from chronic pain, although statistics show there’s a slightly higher proportion of females to males.

According to Bupa Health Care, chronic pain is most common in women aged between 50-54 and men between 55-59. Injury is usually the primary cause (38 per cent).

Conditions resulting in chronic pain may include:

  • back pain
  • cluster headaches and migraines
  • joint pain, knee pain, hip pain, pelvic pain, neck pain
  • neuropathic pain (damage to the nervous system itself) including CPRS (Complex Regional Pain Syndrome)
  • cancer pain
  • fibromyalgia
  • musculoskeletal
  • visceral (organ) pain.

Chronic pain treatment options in Australia
Although it’s been considered a taboo subject for years, medical cannabis could be a viable option for those suffering from chronic pain.

Cannabinoid therapy, referring to the use of the cannabis plant and its component cannabinoids, is currently being used as treatment for medical conditions including chronic pain, multiple sclerosis (MS), epilepsy, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), cancer pain and neuropathic pain. The plant’s therapeutic benefits and cannabinoid compounds (such as THC and CBD) mimic naturally occurring cannabinoids found in the human body to help reduce painful and prolonged symptoms.

Although there is still a lot more to learn about therapeutic cannabis use, medical cannabis and the legalisation of it for use in chronic pain management has become a viable option for many patients.

Australia has legalised medical marijuana for use by patients with selected conditions.

The challenge of effective pain management

Current treatments for chronic pain can be problematic. Opiate medications, while they may be helpful at the time of an acute injury, may not work well for patients with long-term chronic pain.

Some of the problems associated with use of prescription and over-the-counter medications include risk of tolerance, dependency and decreased quality of life. 

Non-opioids, such as paracetamol, anti-inflammatories, antidepressants or antiepileptics, can be effective in relieving some pain. However, it is recommended they only be used for short periods of time. Non-opioid pain killers are often not effective in completely reducing the burden of chronic pain.

Extensive research and clinical trials conducted globally suggest medical cannabis for chronic pain treatment may benefit some patients. In comparison to opioids and over-the-counter medications, medical cannabis is known to be relatively well tolerated with a favourable safety profile.

There is good evidence to indicate that medical cannabis can be helpful for patients with chronic pain where they cannot tolerate or are refractory to other medicines.

Important considerations for medical cannabis as pain treatment
The THC:CBD (Tetrahydrocannabinol to Cannabidiol) ratio helps inform prescribers to identify products that may more effectively treat an individual patient’s condition. The exact dose of THC and CBD varies between products and what they’re being used for.

Examples of the ratios uses in Australian medical oils can be found here.

Despite strict quality control and existing clinical trials, the use of medical cannabis for chronic pain treatment still needs further investigation to create a more robust understanding of the use of medical marijuana in chronic pain patients.

Chronic pain sufferers interested in medical cannabis treatment are urged to speak with their GP to ensure they are prescribed a product best aligned with their needs. 

How to access medical cannabis
Medications for chronic pain, including medical cannabis, may be prescribed by a GP or specialist.

After an initial consultation between doctor and patient, to discuss medicinal cannabis as a treatment option, if a doctor deems medicinal cannabis as a viable option they will usually apply via the TGA’s SAS B application pathway and local state health authority, if required.

Once approval has been granted, the doctor will write the patient a script for medicinal cannabis.

Chronic pain doesn’t have to be unmanageable. There are options for effective pain management that can help patients relieve their pain and get back to normality.

This article was written by Jayde Ferguson – a local content writer and chronic pain sufferer who has battled severe scoliosis for over 20 years and recently being diagnosed with epilepsy. Catch Jayde on LinkedIn.  

Do you suffer from chronic pain? Would medical cannabis be a viable option for you? Should Australia quit dragging its heels and further investigate the benefits of medical cannabis?



    To make a comment, please register or login
    25th Mar 2019
    Millions of people around the world are finding this the SAFEST, MOST EFFECTIVE, EASY TO USE way to ease away chronic pain and other conditions without the risk of procedures or harmful side effects.
    Far more effective than traditional Stem Cell procedures, already clinically proven and readily available and accepted by medical authorities in over 100 countries including Australia.
    Personally, we are in a group of over 11,000 members using these patches around the world and the feedback from members is outstanding. No medical claims but considering the low cost, safety, ease of use and recorded effectiveness this could be the one thing many people will find of great benefit.
    25th Mar 2019
    You would be a lot more helpful to anyone who wanted to try your patches if you offered to give the name of the company you mention to anyone ready to send you their email address.

    Having said that, you lost me completely when you said these patches can be applied on top of clothing and apparently work miracles. Sounds like I could be better off buying a "magic" wand. Is it all psychological?
    25th Mar 2019
    Maggie, these are the same technology patches used by Olympic competitors and even during tennis events earlier this year in Australia. You can often notice them on body or limbs of sporting teams. They are not "magic" but just using a proven technology that works extremely well. Look at the video, that explains more for you. No, they are not psychological nor placebo :) We have regular meeting in SA, and other states where we demonstrate the patches free of charge with no obligation. My email address is in case someone wants to know more.
    25th Mar 2019
    "No medical claims but considering the low cost, safety, ease of use and recorded effectiveness this could be the one thing many people will find of great benefit." You speak as the wealthy here.....

    Medicinal cannabis is available only at full price. You got that right BUT When I first enquired about it I was told by my specialist that he would be happy to agree to a script, it would cost me about $800 per month. My chemist agreed with this but warned me that because of my condition I might need more of it . . . .
    Later I was told that I might be able to get it for $400 a month. Half price! Wow! How many of us have $400 a month to spend on one med?
    It does not ease pain for everybody, but I have heard from two friends that it does help them to sleep at night.
    I would be interested to know if patches are available in Australia - all my chemist knew about was oil and oil capsules.
    25th Mar 2019
    Maggie, the patches are readily available in Australia and can be obtained through members of the company here in Australia and worldwide. They are delivered from a distribution centre in Melbourne for Australia and NZ users. In relating to costs; a Stem Cell procedure can cost around $10,000 to $20,000 or more and comes with its own pain in the process, risks (the process is even banned in many countries) and may not even be effective. In the testimonials below you will see that many issues are resolved with the patches, sometimes near immediately, but generally with just one to four weeks use of the patches.
    We do realise testimonials can be created by anyone and the best one you will have is your own. Using these patches is likely the best way you will ever have for creating your own. The member cost for the patches is around $160 for a four-week supply. Considering the patches produce a long-term result with short term use and many conditions can often be eased away after a couple of weeks or less the overall cost is not high.
    Two great benefits with the patches: As they are provided through members of the company you will have access to FREE ongoing support for as long as you need it. While the patches are found effective in near 100% of issues for what they have been proven to assist with, the company also provides a 30 day return policy if not satisfied. Most people notice benefits near immediately but if feeling they may not be helping you can at least gain a refund.
    25th Mar 2019
    greygeek, we are sorry to see you suffering with the issues you have. Sometime in the future do have a closer look at the patches I mention. They are extremely effective and have NO harmful side effects - EVER! They are NON-TRANSDERMAL and will even work well when placed ON TOP of clothing. Nothing ingested or induced into the body. This is a totally new technology and could likely help you very well.
    25th Mar 2019
    Due to severe chronic pain, my GP gave me a referral for cbd, however, consult/application costs would amount to approx. $1000 then $350 pcm a script. On top of that the side effects/consequences deterred me. It can stay in the system for up to 12 hours. If stopped for a roadside test, one will return a positive, which will result in fine/conviction etc. I value my independence in being still able to drive and have no wish to have a conviction. Thank goodness I have an extremely high pain threshold, as I am in pain all day. Gave up on pills as I proved by not taking them, there was no difference. So, it is a "No" from me for cbd/thc oil, caps, patches

    Join YOURLifeChoices, it’s free

    • Receive our daily enewsletter
    • Enter competitions
    • Comment on articles