September 19, 2023

We are Northern: This is the Pain Management Service

The Northern Health Pain Management Service runs across Bundoora Centre and Broadmeadows Hospital.

It provides diagnosis, management, and review of persistent pain conditions for patients in the north. It is a lifeline for individuals who continue to experience debilitating pain, despite seeking conventional medical and community care. The program works assist clients in managing their pain through an active service model.

Most clients referred to the program will be required to complete a pain questionnaire. This information assists with triaging patients into their initial point of entry into the program and provides baseline information regarding the patient’s status.

The team consists of three part-time Pain Physicians, Grade 3 Physiotherapists, Grade 3 Psychologists, an Occupational Therapist, an Exercise Physiologist, and a Pain Service Coordinator. Supported by a diligent admin team, each member plays a crucial role in delivering high-quality care.

Persistent pain can lead to a reduced level of functioning and quality of life for the clients. Therefore, the service team adopts a multidisciplinary approach to address these challenges:

  • Expert Assessment – pain specialists, physiotherapists, and psychologists conduct thorough assessments and provide expert guidance.
  • Education – they offer both group and one-on-one education sessions, alongside pre-recorded videos, to equip clients with evidence-based strategies for self-management.
  • Holistic Care – they collaborate with other disciplines, such as occupational therapy, exercise physiology, social work, and more, to ensure a holistic and patient-centred approach.

Amid the pandemic, the pain management service faced a significant challenge in initiating patients into the program. Previously, this process involved large group sessions for patient introduction and an educational session. To adapt, they transitioned this content online and introduced the TelePEP (Telehealth Pain Education Program).

“To overcome this challenge, we adapted this content to go online and the idea of the TelePEP was born. We started to use an online version of the initial entry questionnaire and recorded an introduction to the service which we then distributed as a closed YouTube link to a consumer via email,” said Sarah Slater, CTS Pain Service Coordinator.

Now, patients complete an initial entry questionnaire along with an introductory video online. Subsequently, a one-on-one telephone triage interview with a team member guides them forward. The TelePEP has been translated into Arabic and Turkish.

As we step into 2024, the psychology team will lead a quality project that explores the efficacy of brief Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy for patients with persistent pain. This innovative approach is backed by increasing evidence, suggesting that it can help clients process emotional stress related to their pain experiences, potentially reducing the intensity of physical pain symptoms.

“This is part of a wider quality project by the Northern Health Psychology Allied Health team in which the feasibility of EMDR therapy with clients within the community rehab services will be explored,” she said.

At Northern Health, our pain management service stands as a testament to our dedication to improving the lives of those living with persistent pain. We thank our exceptional team for their unwavering commitment, and we look forward to continued growth and excellence in 2023 and beyond.

Featured image: Mahwish Chaudry, Psychologist and Anthea Manioudakis, Physiotherapist.