INTERVIEW: Shaun Meehan, GB's GM of South Australia, Discusses Chronic Pain 

In support and promotion of National Pain Week (24th-30th of July) we sat down with GB’s General Manager of South Australia, Shaun Meehan and asked him a few questions about his experience and advocacy of pain.

Shaun recently completed the 7-day Pain Revolution Cycle from Melbourne to Adelaide, along with some of Australia’s most respected pain scientists, physicians, physiotherapists and GPs.

The aim of the event was not only to raise funds for Pain Revolution research and improve the treatment of persistent (chronic) pain, but also to increase awareness of the impacts of persistent pain on society.

Along the way they stopped at rural centres en route to discuss the latest discoveries and learn from clinicians and communities who are facing this massive health problem every day.

What did you learn about Pain during the Pain Revolution Ride you completed in April?

I learnt a lot about the research into how and why pain is perceived differently by different people and why people have different pain tolerances.

A lot of this research shows how one of the more effective ways of treating pain is to actually address the pain buffer/tolerance of an individual and to develop a plan towards gradually increasing ones pain tolerance.

For example, when someone gets injured, their brain goes into protection mode and senses danger in a more sensitive way than it may have previously. When someone hurts themselves and they experience pain, they associate all of the effects of the injury, to the pain whereas the pain is actually a warning signal from the brain as a result of the brains evaluation of the situation. As they recover, they are more protected on what they do on daily basis and may become more sensitive towards the pain experienced.

 Most people have experienced pain on varying levels, but how and why do you think it is one of Australia’s most costly health problems

Pain is subjective and there are large differences when it comes to understanding pain and the treatment of it.

 What strategies/ resources/ help is available for people suffering from pain?

Anyone suffering from pain should be consulting with their Medical Practitioner on a regular basis as if they are receiving appropriate treatment and rehabilitation the acute pain should eventually subside.

I also recommend people do their own research into acute pain. It is important for anyone suffering from pain to have a thorough understanding of pain and how it is relative to their injury and recovery. More importantly they need to understand how pain is a signal from the brain, rather than the actual injured body part/site.

 How can pain lead to other health conditions?

When someone is off work for extended periods of time this can often lead to other mental health conditions such as depression due to the impact of their original injury and the pain they are experiencing as a result.

Pain from one injury can also result in people over compensating for that injured body part, such as altering their gait which can cause additional stress on another body part, and potentially an additional injury.

There are also instances where people are wheelchair bound as a result of pain but there is no medical reason as to why as clinically their injury has resolved. In these cases, their pain buffer/tolerance is so low that everything causes them pain.

When recovering from an injury it is important for people to maintain mental and physical fitness where they can. Health and wellbeing is holistic so it is important we approach pain holistically.

 What’s the difference between acute pain and chronic pain?

Acute Pain is temporary and results from something specific, such as an injury. As the brain begins to receive messages of tissue repair and healing, it can turn pain down then eventually off, so we can start to move fully again. Even though there may be a fractured bone, a cut or swelling, the pain is not coming from the injured site, it is coming from the brain and is the result of the brain’s evaluation of the situation.

Chronic Pain is pain that extends beyond the expected period of healing. Chronic pain is when the healing process has finished and the pain now has less to do with the site of the pain. The brain continues to send pain signals.

How does pain affect employers with staff suffering?

Pain can affects employers greatly as they don’t tend to understand the impact this can have on one’s recovery and what this means in the way of their treatment.

Pain can impact the relationship between the employer and the injured worker because there are a lot of preconceptions that because injured workers are experiencing pain, they are milking it, however as I’ve discussed this is quite often not the case. In turn, this can make it more difficult for Case Managers to influence the Injured Worker and Employer in returning to work in addition to driving the cost of the claim up.

Pain is very real for the person experiencing it so no one should be doubting the pain or symptoms someone else is experiencing. It is critically important to be supportive and helpful in any way that you can

What do we recommend for those employers/ how can Case Managers help?

 Case Managers can help by ensuring employers understand the claims management and workers compensation process as well as communicating the injury, typical treatment and recovery timeframes clearly so the employer knows what to expect. Ensuring Employers have this information and advice can assist in setting realistic expectations as well as stakeholder responsibilities.

Case Managers also need to try and stress the importance for employers to try and understand what their injured workers are going through by showing empathy and demonstrating they care. Employers doing little things like calling to see how they are coping and asking if there is anything they can do can go a long way.

Prolonged work at a desk or computer, and poor work station set-up are hazards, that in some circumstances, can aggravate or lead to work-related injuries or diseases. In efforts to you prevent pain and discomfort at work, we have created a Display Screen Equipment (DSE) Workstation Assessment.

Questionnaire: Ensure your workstation is set up correctly.

Print and complete the questionnaire today to ensure your workstation is set up correctly.

For more information about our managing pain contact us here.

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