Medication not the only answer in puzzle of pain

One week on from changes to codeine access, pain expert Professor Philip Siddall is encouraging sufferers who continue to struggle, to explore solutions besides medication.

Dr Siddall, director of the HammondCare Greenwich Hospital Pain Clinic, said codeine-based medication is not generally an advisable treatment plan for chronic pain: “Exercise and lifestyle changes, relaxation, meditation, distraction and pacing are among the tools available for meaningful pain relief.”

He encouraged anyone suffering from chronic pain to speak to their GP about a referral to a specialised pain clinic. Dr Siddall’s pain clinic was recognised as the top pain service in Australia and New Zealand for opioid use reduction in 2016, with two-thirds of patients reducing their daily morphine equivalent use by more than 50 per cent1.

“Whether people were seeing a doctor or self-medicating, we know that reliance on codeine is not a healthy option in the long term,” Dr Siddall said.

“Risks with normal use include constipation, and impairment including drowsiness and loss of concentration is common as people increase their dosage. There is also the very real risk of addiction – in fact, more Australians die from prescription drug overdose than illicit drug use.”

Dr Siddall practices a holistic approach to pain relief, guided by a team including a physiotherapist, clinical psychologist and pain medicine specialist. The program focuses on identifying multiples sources of pain and an array of tools to improve quality of life.

“For many people, the issue is a sense of hopelessness. They feel as though the pain has taken over and is driving their life. The pain is like a bogeyman that won’t let them go to the shops or play with their grandchildren,” Dr Siddall said.

“Once people have a greater sense of control, they don’t feel as threatened. The pain is still there but they are in control again because there’s something they can do about it.”

Dr Siddall said lower back and neck pain were the most common complaints among sufferers of chronic non-cancer pain.

In the six years it has been in operation, the HammondCare Greenwich Hospital Pain Clinic has emerged as a leader in pain management across Australia.

Led by Dr Siddall, an internationally-recognised expert with more than 25 years’ experience in clinical work and research, the diverse team of specialists is able to achieve significant reductions in pain while also reducing drug use.

“The first step is a very comprehensive assessment. We’ll stand back as a multi-disciplinary team and look at all the factors associated with their pain in totality,” Dr Siddall said.

“There is no single answer; it’s generally a combination of all the solutions that we like to refer to as a toolbox of skills.”

The low-intensity program sees participants attend six weekly group sessions, each three hours long, to reduce pain, improve physical function, improve mood, build confidence, and ultimately get more satisfaction out of life again.

All costs are covered by private health insurance, aside from The Pain Book ($20 for program participants), and there are a limited number of places available at no cost for those without private health insurance.

Independent research conducted by the University of Wollongong1, which examined outcomes from 46 services in Australia and New Zealand, placed the HammondCare Greenwich Hospital Pain Clinic among the top services in key outcomes including pain reduction, pain interference reduction, and opioid use reduction.

Media inquiries: Professor Philip Siddall is available for interview. For more information, please contact HammondCare: Harrison Vesey ( on 02 9268 6758.

1 2016 Annual ePPOC Report

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