Online advice a help for chronic pain

Online pain management resources can help support the many New Zealanders living with chronic pain, but cannot replace doctors, a pain researcher says.

''They have a place for helping patients to help themselves, and in terms of using them as an adjunct to face-to-face care,'' researcher Hemakumar Devan said of the resources.

''There's a place for blended care, but start with face-to-face human contact, and blend this with online [support],'' he said.

Dr Devan, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Otago's Wellington campus, said high quality internet sites and apps which were free and readily available via smart phones and computers could help the one in five New Zealanders living with persistent or chronic pain conditions.

These conditions included migraines, back and neck pain and arthritis.

People living with chronic pain are often managed in primary care or referred to specialist pain clinics where they learn various techniques to self-manage their symptoms each day.

Dr Devon, of the university's Centre for Health, Activity and Rehabilitation Research, said that given New Zealand's ageing population, there was a growing need for more support with day-to-day self management of chronic pain.

His research also highlighted the need for high quality New Zealand online resources, including to provide support for Maori and Pasifika people, given most online pain management resources were based on overseas experience.

There were many barriers to accessing specialised pain services in New Zealand, including long waiting lists and the need to physically access services, which could be difficult for those in pain.

Dr Devan wrote two recently published research papers which evaluated the use of best practice self-management strategies in pain management internet sites and apps.

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