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Interesting Conference Titbits

05 November, 2011

Its been a week since the APA conference wrapped up and I thought I’d jot down some of the more interesting things to be presented. It was a great three days of Women’s Health topics – raising as many questions as answers were given.

Throughout the conference there were some great lectures on chronic pain management. Chronic pain or as it is more correctly known as persistent pain is a huge impost on society- causing debilitating distress for many women and men. Dr Mark Hutchinson looked at the role of ‘glial’ cells- the immune like cells of the brain. He stated that 1.5 billion people world wide suffer with perisitent pain and 3.2 million Australians. It is the 4th most prevelent health condition, with the cost to Australia being $37 billion and is female dominant. He stated that females have primed TLR4 (toll like receptor) systems.

But there is much research happening and education for health professionals as to how to approach the management of persistent pain. Interestingly he said that all the research happening in the laboratories is using male rats and mice and due to this important finding about the female dominance, work is now looking at female specific pain therapies. Stress drives the glial cell reactivity with possibly oestrogens priming the system.

A key message is that exercise modulates glial activity, creating a tolerance mechanism.Current drug treatments provide only symptomatic relief, have been developed in male mice and drugs such as opioids have side effects such as hyperalgesia, allodynea, dependence and addiction. As he works in pharmacology research, he is looking for the perfect drug treatment- one that resets the pain system and undoes all the pain changes.

A key health message came from Professor Leon Straker who indicated that long durations of ‘sit time’ is a key health risk factor – and we all know what is causing us all to have long durations of sit time. Computer time -through increasing dependence on social media, emails and so much of our work being computer driven (ie writing blogs…….) means that we are all sitting for hours on end and this is detrimental to our health. It is important to get up regularly away from the computer-go for a walk, climb the stairs to the next floor and generally anything that gets you moving.

Speaking of climbing stairs – I was speaking with a patient this week who has recently had two lots of gynae repair surgery and is undertaking quite a physical challenge of ‘doing Kakoda’ next year and was asking advice about how to build up fitness. When I suggested that stair climbing at work would be something that could happen during the lunch hour, she reported that in her fantastic, new, sustainably- brilliant building, the stairwells are locked and inaccessible. Isn’t it a shame that something as simple as walking up stairs instead of taking the lift is no longer an option- when we know more and more that exercise is a key important health message.

Leon also asked us physios as a profession to be instrumental in helping spread the word about key health messages. Australia has been pretty good in some areas in changing behaviours and improving health outcomes such as reduction in smoking rates and prevention of drink driving. We are not doing so well with obesity and alcohol consumption. He suggested we start at a very basic level- give flowers instead of alcohol if going to a dinner party. I know I should eat less chocolate- there I’ve said it! NOW to put it into practice. I’ll keep you updated on the progress of my own obesity busting strategy.

Anyway, it is time to get up, move away from the computer and get moving and there will no doubt be some other key messages I can report back on next time.

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