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5 March, 2021

Fast track pain service a life changer

MICHELLE Duncan’s world changed seven years ago, when she woke up in excruciating pain.

Tablelands resident Michelle Duncan has seen life-changing benefits from the Cairns and Hinterland Hospital and Health Service’s new Fast Track Pain Management Service

The Atherton resident had a massive back ache, which doctors later diagnosed as arthritis in her lower spine, which was causing intense nerve pressure.

 She was also diagnosed with some joint dysfunction. “I woke up and I couldn’t walk,” she said.

“I couldn’t put any weight on my left leg. I went to physio immediately, and they told me I had a back issue – but the pain got worse as time went on.

 “I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t eat. Taking medication didn’t help.”

 Michelle’s GP eventually referred her to the Cairns and Hinterland Hospital and Health Service’s new

Fast Track Pain Management Service.

 The service, which started in June last year, is a multi-disciplinary pain service that provides high value, evidence-based care close to people’s homes.

 Michelle said the clinic had been a life-changer for her. “The pain is nowhere near as bad as it was,” she said.

“I basically didn’t exercise for seven years, and my body had lost a lot of its muscle strength.

 “Going to Pain Management, they have taught me not to fear my pain, and to learn what my body can do.

 “Now, I exercise six days a week and do yoga every single morning.

 “I also swim three days a week and I do strength exercises and walking four days a week. “I find it incredible what I am doing now, considering I didn’t move for seven years.”

Jay Whittem, from CHHHS’ North Queensland Persistent Pain Service, said since the Fast Track Pain Management Service commenced in June, there had been 158 referrals for the service – far exceeding an initial estimation of about 8 patients a month.

 “Chronic pain is common, costly and disabling,” he said.

 “It affects 1 in 5 people, costs the Far North Queensland economy $1.45 billion each year. “It also causes more people to live with disability than any other health condition.”

He said the new service allowed the health service to work with GPs and other health professionals to improve awareness, knowledge and ultimately better access to pain management solutions.

“For people suffering chronic pain, they can feel like they are the only ones fighting this battle,” he said. “They’re not. There are some very effective pathways to manage pain.

“If you need help, please speak to your GP, they are able to refer you to our service.”

 The Australian Pain Society is hosting a community pain forum in Cairns onTuesday,March9. For further information, contact the society on (02) 90164343 or email at 

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