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ADAPT program offers new hope for chronic pain sufferers

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Active and athletic registered nurse Jacqui thought her clinical background would put her in good stead for a chronic pain management journey after she fell on a boat as she prepared for a sailing trip around the world alongside her husband.

“Though I found out my damaged foot wasn’t fractured based on the first scan, I was diagnosed with Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome which led me to Dr Charles Brooker and the Pain Management Research Centre.”

“The wonderful team diagnosed me straight away, and the next steps were trialling some drugs, but none of them would take away the pain. So that’s when I started the ADAPT program, and they taught me different tools to help manage this pain,” Jacqui said

The centre is based at the Royal North Shore Hospital and is supported by the Pain Foundation, which was established to progress research and development in chronic pain management throughout northern Sydney.

Related: Chronic pain: The hidden health crisis impacting millions of Australians

Dr Charles Brooker, a board member at the Foundation and Director at the Centre, says the ADAPT program allows medical therapies to be viewed in perspective, with a sensible application of more holistic knowledge and strategies to minimise the impact of chronic pain and reduce reliance on further tests and treatments that are often useless at this point in the person’s journey.

“For chronic pain generally medications either have too many side effects or the brain gets used to them to the point that they actually make the pain worse. While it’s best to avoid them, sometimes they cannot be – such as drug treatment rheumatoid arthritis for example, or if people have been on medications for quite some time, ceasing these drugs must be handled very carefully,” Dr Brooker said.

Jacqui is now living a more active life, thanks to the ADAPT program.

“If you deal with chronic pain early, like my surgeon did, you will mostly have a positive outcome. The Centre saved my life in many ways. I am now active, back to doing things I love, sleeping more than 3 hours a night. At times it’s hard because the pain is always there, but I am controlling it with all the tools the centre provided me.”

Jacqui did end up sailing with her husband.

“We sailed all the way to England in our yacht,”

Over the years, Jacqui has expanded her chronic pain management to include other techniques.

“I received a surgical spinal cord stimulator, which has been amazing,” Jacqui said.

Dr Brooker said to progress chronic pain management in this country, much is needed – in terms of awareness, education and funding.

“We need to reduce over investigation and opioid treatment with a focus on exercise and pain management strategies, including psychological strategies to manage chronic pain,” Dr Brooker said.

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