Painaustralia released its National Action Plan for pain management this week, citing allied health as integral to an interdisciplinary approach to improve quality of life for more than 3.24 million Australians living with chronic pain.  

The Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA) contributed to the development of the action plan and endorses its eight key goals, which are guided by effective investment of resources to provide evidence based, best practice pain management options. It is now imperative that the plan is fast tracked for implementation via the Australian Health Ministers Council and the Council of Australian Governments.

This must include increased access to evidence based physiotherapy – one on one, in groups or via telehealth - in recognition of the essential role it plays in effectively managing chronic pain.

Physiotherapists work individually and in consultation with other health practitioners to provide relief from conditions as diverse as knee and hip osteoarthritis, musculoskeletal conditions, pelvic pain, fibromyalgia and more.

APA chair of pain group, Dianne Wilson, supports the goals outlined in the strategy. “We’ve long recognised the massive burden chronic pain has on the community, but this action plan now defines the steps we need to take in order to minimise and in some cases eliminate the impact on Australians living with ongoing, persistent pain.”

“Greater community awareness and more government funding for treatment and research into non-pharmaceutical pain management options such as physiotherapy will lead to much better consumer outcomes.”

“Twenty per cent of the population is affected by chronic pain, which costs the health system as much as diabetes and cancer treatment combined. Increased research funding will allow us to conduct more clinical trials that ultimately supports recovery and prevention of pain related problems.”

The APA particularly endorses the call for chronic pain to be recognised as a condition in its own right, thus attracting Medicare subsidised treatment similar to the model provided for diabetes education.

Given the vast divide in health service provision in cities compared to rural and remote regions, the APA strongly supports MBS funded telehealth consultations that allow GPs and allied health practitioners the opportunity to consult with patients who would otherwise have to travel long distances to seek specialist treatment.

As part of the MBS Review Taskforce, the APA Pain Management Clinical Committee submitted a response to the draft Taskforce Report earlier this year. It outlines the profession’s commitment to developing more evidence based physiotherapy practices to improve pain management. This includes upskilling the existing workforce through foundation level pain science and management courses, along with accreditation of titled pain physiotherapists who have advanced skills and knowledge. The Australian College of Physiotherapy is currently implementing a specialisation in pain career pathway, further recognising the value of specialists in this area.


Dianne Wilson is available for further comment or interview.


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