Persistent pain is an enormous problem in Australia, costing $34 billion annually, and impacting significantly on trauma patients. Could we be doing more to stop it?

While other research has focused on the costs associated with this kind of pain, this project examines specifically the factors that lead to its onset.

This research also turns the spotlight onto compensation bodies, to assess the impact they have on persistent pain in light of recent findings that the compensation claim experience can negatively impact on recovery rates.

Led by Dr Melita Giummarra from Monash University, the project will be undertaken in three phases. It is supported by the Australian Research Council Linkage Project Scheme.

After an initial examination of the impact that compensation factors have on persistent pain after motor vehicle accidents, the research team will then investigate the role played by psychosocial factors, followed by biopsychosocial factors, such as attention to pain, fear of pain and fear-avoidance.

Ultimately, the project's objective is to outline the diverse range of factors that lead to persistent pain in the hopes of helping the TAC to deliver effective claims management and improved client outcomes.

Where to now?

The first phase of this research has been completed, with a report reviewing the relationship between compensation and recovery after motor vehicle accidents. A summary of the report findings are now available.

This research confirms that involvement in the compensation process either does not facilitate recovery or is associated with poorer recovery, and that this is especially the case when an individual is involved in a tort compensation scheme.

Based on this, the research team recommends that compensation bodies keep their processes as simple as possible. This can be done by reducing the number of medical assessments, decreasing lawyer involvement, utilising a consistent single point of contact, and employing case managers with medical or health backgrounds.

These researchers have produced a journal article examining the impact of oxytocin on persistent pain, while in-house ISCRR researchers have completed Evidence Reviews assessing the effectiveness of Lumbar Spinal Fusions and Radiofrequency Denervation as potential persistent pain treatment options.

The remaining research phases of this project are ongoing. Watch this space for updates.