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
- It is estimated that 14 million people live with chronic pain in England alone. In 2011, 31% of men and 37% of women reported persistent pain. Of these, 25% (or one in four – 3.5 million) said that their pain had kept them from usual activities (including work) on at least 14 days in the previous three months.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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".
The British Pain Society is the largest multidisciplinary professional organisation in the field of pain within the UK.
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.
Founded in 1973, IASP is a non-profit professional organisation dedicated to furthering research on pain and improving the care of patients with pain.
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