DOCTORS from across the region have descended on Geelong this weekend to discuss the advancements and challenges of pain management.
Two hundred GPs from across the western district will attend a two-day conference, featuring presentations by a range of specialists exploring themes of pain and distress among patients.
Guest speaker Dr Brett Chandler, a pain specialist, will explore the complexities of treating and managing persistent pain.
“Pain is there to protect us from damage to the body but a disorder of the nervous system can lead to it being persistent,” Dr Chandler said.
“This means the patient still experiences the distress caused by misinformation from their body which says, ‘damage is being done, you need to seek treatment’.”
In his experience, lower back pain, post-surgery pain and nerve pain are all conditions that can cause significant distress.
“What I do tend to see is pain produce more distress than diabetes, hypertension, stroke or greater physical disability because of the nature of the affect that it has on the brain,” he said.
Dr Chandler said the recent restrictions to over-the-counter codeine present an opportunity to stop patients from self-medicating.
“Codeine itself has low rates (of effectiveness) for persistent pain conditions and in fact worsens a lot of conditions such as headaches,” he said.
“By restricting the access to the medication that’s not effective, we can use the medication that works better as well as other treatments such as physical therapy and psychology.”
Dr Chandler, of the Pain Matrix at Epworth Geelong, will also encourage GPs to assess the efficiency of medications and exercise greater levels of empathy and understanding.
“Often rather than accepting they do have pain, we have a tendency as a society and in the medical fraternity to say it’s all in their head,” Dr Chandler said.
“For all the medications we use for persistent pain, one in four won’t work.”
The conference, hosted by Western Victoria Primary Health Network, will be held at Deakin University Saturday and Sunday.