Council for Australian-Arab Relations (CAAR)

Chronic pain – a disease entity in its own right

Helping physiotherapists manage the chronic pain of Sickle Cell Disease in an Arabic population

Media release

September 2010

Managing Sickle Cell Disease using cognitive behavioural principles within an Arab environment is supported by the Australian Government through the Council for Australian‐Arab Relations (CAAR) Lois Tonkin, a Specialist Physiotherapist and Associate Clinical Lecturer at the University of Sydney's Pain Management Research Centre Royal at North Shore Hospital has been awarded a grant by the Council for Australian‐Arab Relations to work with Physiotherapists in the Gulf States in the management of chronic pain due to Sickle Cell Disease. Lois' project is to train physiotherapists working in the Sultan Qaboos University Hospital in Muscat, Oman in the use of cognitivebehavioural principles to help patients manage the ongoing chronic musculoskeletal pain associated with Sickle Cell Disease.

Sickle Cell Disease is a genetically inherited blood disorder of the haemoglobin that manifests as a "painful episode" – an acute recurrent pain syndrome – with at least one severe episode per year requiring hospital admission. If these are managed well, patients cope. However this disease commonly manifests in the chronic phase as more frequent episodes of pain which are not adequately managed.

This is a rarely seen disease in Australia, but is common in Arabic populations, both in their native countries and also in the UK and USA. This project will introduce the principles of cognitivebehavioural pain management to therapists in the Arab region to complement their current rehabilitation programs. It will assess the use of a cognitive‐behavioural rehabilitation program for the management of persisting and recurrent pain in patients with Sickle Cell Disease in hospitals in the region, and assess the outcome of the program in their home environment. Perhaps more importantly, the project will aim to enhance the collaboration between therapists in Australia and those from a background in Arab countries with a view to improving understanding and management of persisting pain in different disease processes and cultural backgrounds. To this extent, the program will extrapolate therapeutic principles used in Australia by Physiotherapists for the management of persisting pain to a more specific disease entity in a different culture. Ultimately this project reinforces the global nature of persisting pain, the importance of the exchange of skills and awareness of cultural differences.