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Chronic pain is pain that persists beyond the normal time of healing, or occurs in diseases in which healing does not take place.

Chronic pain can occur when no obvious cause can be found, and is thought to be due to changes in the nervous system. It can affect any part of the body and people of any age including children. The Department of Health recognises chronic pain as a long-term condition in its own right, and as a component of other long-term conditions.

Facts and Figures

  • The Departments of Health for England and Scotland recognises chronic pain as a long-term condition in its own right and as a component of other long-term conditions.
  • Approximately 8 million adults report chronic pain that is moderate to severely disabling*. From the same report, it is estimated that 43% of adults (just under 28 million people) currently live with a degree of chronic pain in the United Kingdom. The prevalence in older age groups is even higher, with up to 62% of those aged 75 and over reporting chronic pain symptoms.
  • A person living with pain will have a very poor quality of life - much worse than other conditions, and as bad as significant neurological diseases such as Parkinson's.
  • Low back pain is ranked highest out of 291 conditions studied by the Global Burden of Disease study, ranking number one for years lost to disability worldwide. In fact four of the top 12 disabling conditions globally are persistent pain conditions (low-back and neck pain, migraine, arthritis, other musculoskeletal conditions).
  • 41% of people who attended pain clinics report that their pain has prevented them from working, and 13% have had to reduce their hours.
  • Chronic pain may affect up to 30% of young adults of working age (18-39-year-olds).
  • 66% of people attending A&E seeking help with pain had more than three visits to a healthcare professional in the preceding six months.
  • The 2008 Chief Medical Officer report states that 25% of pain sufferers lose their jobs; 16% of sufferers feel their chronic pain is so bad that they sometimes want to die.
  • Men and women in the lowest income households are more likely to report chronic pain (42%), compared to those in the highest quintile (27%).
  • Severe chronic pain is associated with increased risk of mortality, independent of socio-demographic factors.
  • Attending specialist pain services improves quality of life (in total, 56% of providers reported post-treatment improvement in EQ5D-3L score, and 76% reported improvement specifically in pain-related quality of life).

For full references of the above, please see the UK Pain Messages, which can be downloaded using the link on the right.

Current Issues

  • Recent reports have identified pain services as ‘variable and patchy.’
  • When poorly managed, conditions associated with pain can have a devastating impact on the quality of life of individuals and their families.
  • The failure to implement an effective prevention and treatment strategy for chronic pain not only imposes an unnecessary burden on patients, but also represents an inefficient allocation of time, money and professional expertise.

Baroness Fritchie of Gloucester, President of the Chronic Pain Policy Coalition, says:

"The negative impact that chronic pain is having upon individual people, families, the NHS, the Exchequer and the economy is enormous and alarming, which is why I find the prospect of establishing this Coalition so exciting.

'Patient-led' health services, the effective management of chronic conditions and the need to create healthier workplaces are key priorities for the Department of Health. We need to make sure that prevention and management of Chronic Pain is considered to be a central part of this.

Here we have an opportunity to create a developmental, proactive and patient-focussed Coalition that will solve a problem that cannot be tackled without joined-up thinking. The contribution of patients, professionals and parliamentarians in this Coalition is essential".

Useful links

British Pain Society 

The British Pain Society is the largest multidisciplinary professional organisation in the field of pain within the UK. 

Faculty of Pain Medicine 

The Faculty of Pain Medicine is the professional body responsible for the training, assessment, practice and continuing professional development of specialist medical practitioners in the management of pain in the UK. 

International Association for the Study of Pain 

Founded in 1973, IASP is a non-profit professional organisation dedicated to furthering research on pain and improving the care of patients with pain. 

The UK Parliament

To find information on what's going on in Westminster, including transcripts of debates in the Palace of Westminster, Select Committees and All Party Groups.

All-Party Parliamentary Health Group (APHG)

The APHG is an all-party parliamentary subject group dedicated to disseminating knowledge, generating debate and facilitating engagement with health issues amongst Members of Parliament.

The Welsh Assembly

If you are living in Wales, or are interested in health issues in Wales, the Health Plan Online is a useful website to visit. 

The Northern Ireland Executive

Here you will find helpful information on health issues from the Department of Health, Social Services, and Public Safety, which is provided by The Northern Ireland Executive. 

The Scottish Parliament

If you want to know more about healthcare in Scotland, and would like to receive helpful information from the Department of Health visit the Scottish Parliament website.

NHS Direct

By clicking here the NHS allows you the opportunity to receive convenient and beneficial health information on the Internet.

The National Institute for Clinical Excellence

Find out how individual technologies, including medicines, medical devices, diagnostic techniques, and procedures will improve patient healthcare. 


Regulates medicines and medical products in UK- including pain treatment 

Health Technology Assessment

The HTA programme works to provide all those who make decisions in the NHS with high-quality information on the costs, effectiveness and broader impact of health care treatments.

Department of Health

The Department of Health website will provide you with up to date information on Government health policy for England & Wales, including Government strategy, press releases, and useful contacts. 

Department for Work and Pensions

The Department for Work and Pensions exists to promote opportunity and independence for all through modern, customer-focused services.