Chronic pain affects over 3.6 million Australians and is the leading cause of disability.

What is chronic pain?

Chronic pain refers to long-lasting pain that persists for typically longer than three to six months, or beyond the normal healing time of an injury or illness.

It is a complex condition that can affect various parts of the body and can have a significant impact on a person’s physical and emotional wellbeing. The pain is disabling and stressful.

Various underlying conditions can cause chronic pain, such as arthritis, fibromyalgia, nerve damage, musculoskeletal disorders, or certain chronic illnesses.

Living with chronic pain can significantly lower your quality of life.

Chronic pain is an invisible illness meaning you might look well, but have difficulty with many aspects of day-to-day life. It can affect sleep, mood, work, ability to relax, relationships, and general happiness.

How many people does Chronic Pain Affect?

It is estimated that almost one in five Australians have chronic pain. There were over 105,000 hospital admissions for pain in 2020.

Types of Chronic Pain

There are different types of chronic pain. Some people may have pain in their back or joints, like knees or hips. Others may have headaches, migraines, or pain in their muscles. Conditions like arthritis, fibromyalgia, and nerve damage can cause chronic pain.

Researchers have identified that age, gender, and genetics all affect the risk of developing chronic pain. The behaviours also thought to play a role include a lack of physical activity, smoking, and being overweight.

Management of Chronic Pain

The good news is that there are solutions to help manage chronic pain and improve our quality of life. Doctors can help create a treatment plan tailored to our needs.

One of the best forms of pain management is through something called a whole-person approach.

This means we zoom out to include the person’s body, thinking and mind, and social connections and opportunities. In other words “whole person” is biology-psychology-social.

For successful pain management, we may have to use a combination of strategies such as medications, movement, diet, relaxation, and psychology and counselling.

The physical cause of the pain can be managed with medications to reduce pain. The medications depend on the type and location of the pain.

Exercise or movement can also reduce pain or perceptions of pain. That might include physical therapy exercises given by a physiotherapist to strengthen the body. Relaxation techniques like deep breathing or meditation also help alleviate pain perceptions, sometimes very significantly.

Getting enough sleep is very important. Deep sleep is when our bodies heal and chronic pain can lead to sleep disturbances and sleeplessness. People need sleep. Too long without adequate sleep can lead to anxiety, depression, and trouble thinking clearly.

It almost goes without saying but eating a healthy balanced diet is also important for conquering chronic pain. A whole food diet will create healthy gut bacteria which are thought to play a role in many types of pain, including inflammatory pain, headache, neuropathic pain, and opioid tolerance.

Reducing stress can also make a big difference. Research indicates stress and pain are two sides of the same coin. The two affect and interact with each other.

woman walking along shore of a beach wiuth Tchirt under blue sky


Emma’s Story

Emma*, a Terrigal resident in her early thirties, faced the daily challenges of living with fibromyalgia, a condition involving widespread musculoskeletal pain, fatigue, sleep disturbances, and often cognitive and mood issues. Each day seemed like a battle as she navigated through unrelenting discomfort.

Emma sought medical help with her chronic pain from fibromyalgia. She discovered a compassionate pain specialist. Through his guidance, Emma explored various treatment options. A physiotherapist was able to design specific physical exercises and techniques to alleviate pain and improve her mobility.

Alongside this, Emma tried meditation and mindfulness practices, which she found deeply relaxing.

Recognising the impact of anxiety on her pain levels, Emma also sought therapy to address her emotional wellbeing.

Through Chronic Pain Australia, Emma also discovered a vibrant online community of individuals facing similar challenges. The social network became her refugeā€”a place where she could openly share her experiences, seek advice, and offer support to others.

Connecting with people who truly understood her struggles brought her a sense of belonging and renewed hope.

For further information

*Emma’s name changed for privacy

This information is general in nature and doesn’t take your specific health details or situation into account. You can’t go past seeing a good doctor for personal health advice.