Healthcare and industry groups are calling for chronic pain to be accepted as a disease, saying the condition has been misunderstood; similar to depression was, back before it was recognized as a disease.

Professor Michael Cousins who was chairman of the first National Pain Summit, opened officially by Health Minister Nicola Roxon in Canberra earlier today, says that chronic pain is undertreated and many Australians experience constant pain that disrupts the quality of their lives.

One in five Australians will suffer from chronic pain at some point in their life. Prof Cousins say that chronic pain can be managed, but sufferers are being discriminated against. He says within the last past decade, a lot has been learned about chronic pain. As a result of that, around 80 percent of patients can now be effectively managed.

Helen Owens, a former state health policy advised who resigned in 2006 due to her own personal battle with chronic pain, says she has been suffering constantly for more than 10 years. Her chronic pain comes from having breast cancer.

She says, Suffering from pain is not much fun. It's debilitating. You don't want to keep complaining to your friends and family and colleagues about your pain. That gets very boring for other people. She says that the issue has not been taken seriously enough in Australia.

Prof Cousins says, The moment chronic pain is recognized as a chronic disease and treated within the chronic disease category patients will start to have access to what is really a very strong new movement in Australia to provide resources for effective treatments of chronic disease.

The treatments should start right at the community level, with self-help programs, which if properly put into practice, will be very beneficial for sufferers of chronic pain. Prof Cousins believes that doctors and specialists must know more about chronic pain because their patients often present their symptoms associated with pain.

For the past 15 months, healthcare and consumer organizations have been developing detailed strategies to address chronic pain says Cousins. It is now up to the Federal Government to put these strategies into practice.

The time is over for talking. This is a shameful situation. We need some action, concludes Prof Cousins.