Conference explores the world of pain

Guest speaker Nicola Brown. PHOTO: GERARD O'BRIEN
Guest speaker Nicola Brown. PHOTO: GERARD O'BRIEN
The challenges of treating people living with pain will be explored at the New Zealand Pain Society Annual Scientific Meeting.

Organising committee member Dr Karen Joseph said the conference, which starts today and runs until Sunday at the Dunedin Centre, is taking place in the city for the first time in 10 years.

This year the conference has a theme of "Empowering Pain Management in New Zealand".

Over 50,000 people in Otago live with ongoing pain, with about 20,000 of those living with "high impact" pain, i.e., pain that is having severe limitations on their life, Dr Joseph said.

The definition of pain is "an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage" and so anyone with pain has both the initial injury or illness, and also a much broader experience of suffering in addition to this.

The best practice for treating people who live with pain was a whole person approach that considered all aspects of a person’s pain experience.

This required collaboration between different healthcare professionals such as specialist pain medicine physicians, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, psychologists, acute and chronic pain nurses, GPs and other medical specialists.

As well as a lineup of international speakers, the conference will highlight the work of local experts including researchers from the University of Otago group Pain@Otago, Otago Medical School, Wintech Dunedin, and the Acute Pain Service and Persistent Pain Service at Te Whatu Ora Southern.

Local speakers will include orthopaedic surgeon Mr John Dunbar, clinical psychologist and stand-up comedian Nicola Brown and rongoā Māori practitioner Mathew Kiore.

Early career researchers at the University of Otago including Dr Jerin Mathew, Dr Carrie Falling, Loren Davidson, Esther Ajiteru, Dr Mark Overton and Livia Gaspar Fernandes will also speak at the conference.