Chronic Pain Australia this week is hosting its National Pain Week 2015 to encourage Australians to openly converse about pain, which the organization believes to be the “invisible burden that we don’t want to talk about.”

The annual event aims to promote the following: working toward the de-stigmatisation of the experience of chronic pain; raising awareness of the reality of living with chronic pain; raising community understanding of the difference between acute and chronic pain; increasing knowledge about what can be done about chronic pain; and reducing the isolation and suffering of people in pain.

To learn more about National Pain Week, the future of chronic pain and chronic pain challenges, Clinical Pain Advisor sat down with Coralie Wales, PhD, a founding director of Chronic Pain Australia. More recently, Wales has taken on the role as Chronic Pain Australia’s president.

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Clinical Pain Advisor: What are some of the challenges that chronic pain patients are facing?

Dr. Coralie Wales: Most frequently, people living with chronic pain have difficulty explaining pain to themselves and others. It doesn’t follow the rules of short term (acute) pain and can be therefore mysterious. Current knowledge, however, reveals that chronic pain involves a complex interaction between nervous, immune and endocrine systems and this becomes a “supersystem” which is affected by the context of the person — their past experiences, their genetic and epigenetic background, their social context and their history of trauma, for example. This is not only difficult for the individual living with chronic pain, it is difficult for people around them. This poor understanding of chronic pain leads to assumptions of pain that is “in the mind” or “imaginary” when investigations return no findings on x-ray or CT scan, typically. Stigma is a common consequence due to this poor understanding of the complex neurophysiology of chronic pain.