14 June 2023

Gemma and Indika_web.jpg
UniSA PhD student Indika Koralegedera (right) working with Dr Gemma Skaczkowski.

Whether it’s a lack of appropriate services, time or simply a ‘she’ll be right’ approach, farmers often face many barriers when it comes to seeking health care, say researchers at the University of South Australia.

One condition that farmers experience a lot, but rarely seek professional help for, is the management of chronic pain. Untreated, chronic pain can cause serious distress and diminished productivity.

Now, a team of UniSA experts are exploring what chronic pain means to Australian farmers in a move to improve the way chronic pain management strategies are delivered in rural communities.

They are currently seeking farmers who have experienced chronic pain to participate in this ground-breaking study.

Rural health expert, UniSA’s Associate Professor Kate Gunn, says the study will address a serious gap in pain management among farmers.

“Agriculture is a great industry to work in, but one of the down sides is the physical injuries that can result, which can have long term consequences on farmers’ ability to work, and their wellbeing” Assoc Prof Gunn says.

“Musculoskeletal disorders are very common in this group and due to the unrelenting nature of farm work, farmers often return to work without accessing best-practice treatments, and without being aware of what this means for their long-term health and wellbeing.

“We also know that farmers face multiple barriers to accessing mainstream health care services, including health professionals’ lack of understanding of their way of life.

“This new study is all about giving farmers a voice so that we can gain insight into how they perceive chronic pain, how it impacts upon their work and life, and importantly, how they would like to be assisted to manage it, in a way that fits with their preferences and lifestyles.

“This is important because there are practical things people can do for themselves and with health professional input, that research has shown really do help.”

Chronic pain is a common and complex condition characterised by persistent pain experienced on most days of the week. In Australia, chronic pain affects almost one in five people, or 1.6 million.

Renowned neuroscientist and pain expert, UniSA’s Professor Lorimer Moseley AO, says that all Australians should have access to the knowledge, skills, and local support to prevent and overcome persistent pain.

“Chronic pain is a huge burden to society. But despite its seriousness, only a small proportion of the population receive evidence-based information and advice about how to manage this condition,” Prof Moseley says.

“The effects of chronic pain are significant. It can reduce productivity, lead to increased BMI, and substantially increase the risk of numerous other conditions such as stroke, cancer, depression, multiple sclerosis, and rheumatoid arthritis.

“Rural communities are already struggling with health services. By working with farmers, we are hoping to develop realistic, appropriate and end-user-informed ways to improve the care and management of chronic pain in rural communities.”

The research team, which includes PhD student Indika Koralegedera and Dr Gemma Skaczkowski, is now looking to connect with farmers who have experienced chronic pain and will confidentially talk about its impact on their life and work, and what they currently do to help manage it. 

For further information, please email Assoc Prof Kate Gunn kate.gunn@unisa.edu.au or PhD student Indika Koralegedera indika.koralegedera@mymail.unisa.edu.au.


Media contact: Annabel Mansfield M: +61 479 182 489 E: Annabel.Mansfield@unisa.edu.au

Researcher: Assoc Prof Kate Gunn E: Kate.Gunn@unisa.edu.au


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