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New study aims to ease chronic pain for people with Parkinson’s

Parkinson’s disease is the second most common neurological disease in Australia. As a degenerative disease with no known cure, managing and treating symptoms is vital, particularly when it comes to pain.

Now, researchers from the University of South Australia are investigating the characteristics and treatment of pain in Parkinson’s disease in the hope of advancing patient-centred pain care services.

In Australia, 100,000 people have Parkinson’s disease with up to 85% of patients experiencing some form of pain. Yet despite the prevalence of pain in Parkinson’s, in clinical practice it remains under-recognised and under-treated.

Parkinson’s disease is a disabling condition that causes motor symptoms (such as slowness of movement, rigidity, tremor, and postural instability) and non-motor symptoms (such as depression, anxiety, sleep, gastrointestinal disorders, fatigue, and pain). It usually occurs among older people, but 20% of sufferers are under 50 years old and 10% are diagnosed before 40.

Globally, estimates show that more than 8.5 million people have Parkinson’s disease with the prevalence nearly doubling in the past 25 years. In Australia, 38 people are diagnosed with the condition every day.

Principal Investigator and PhD candidate, UniSA’s Anthony Mezzini says pain is the leading driver of reduced quality of life for people with Parkinson’s.

“Parkinson’s is well-known for affecting a person’s ability to control their movements, but what is less well known is that it also causes chronic pain,” Mezzini says.

“In people with Parkinson’s, pain can occur in muscles and joints, it can occur in the nervous system, and even in internal organs such as the stomach and intestines. As a result, pain can be experienced in almost any part of the body.

“In some cases, the pain is so intolerable and intractable that it overshadows the motor symptoms of the disease.

“In this research, we’re undertaking a comprehensive study of pain experienced by people with Parkinson’s, so that we can develop a deeper understanding of how to best manage pain symptoms and create patient-centred care responses.

“For those who experience chronic pain, it can be a leading driver of reduced quality of life. We want to change this for the better for people with Parkinson’s.”

Funded by The Hospital Research Foundation Group, the Australian Parkinson’s Pain Study is currently looking for people with Parkinson’s to contribute their experiences of pain. If you have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s, are 18+ and have experienced pain symptoms in the past month, you may be eligible.

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