Chronic pain is thought to affect approximately 28 million adults in the UK. However, despite how common it is, patients are often left frustrated and unsupported due to it being an invisible illness.
A new report in The Lancet discusses why we need to rethink chronic pain. Here, we will look at the findings of the report and the effects chronic pain has on patients and society.
What is the new report?
The Lancet series on chronic pain aims to raise awareness of the condition and its causes. It is a complex illness which clinicians often find difficult to treat. Opioids have long been prescribed as an effective treatment option, but as the report shows, this has led to serious issues with addiction in some patients. In turn, this has caused some patients to avoid pain medication altogether through fear of the negative side effects.
The team behind the report insist the attitude towards chronic pain needs to be reset. Patients need the reassurance that they will be believed when they go to their clinician regarding chronic pain. They should be educated on the cause of the pain, realistic expectations should be set, and goals which focus on function as well as pain relief should be created.
The report explains why chronic pain needs to be taken more seriously both by clinicians and the wider public.
Understanding chronic pain conditions
Chronic pain occurs when your pain is ongoing. Typically, if the pain hasn’t disappeared within six months that is when it is diagnosed as chronic. It can occur due to an injury, although many people develop it for seemingly no reason at all.
It can be linked to some conditions such as arthritis, back pain, and Fibromyalgia. Symptoms differ between patients, though it can cause tense muscles, a change in appetite, anger, frustration, and a lack of energy.
The most common misconception about chronic pain is that it indicates a long-term injury. The truth is the condition is usually a result of abnormal neural signalling. It tends to require a combination of pain medication and physiotherapy. Some patients may not even need pain relief medication, instead benefiting from alternative pain relief methods.
The effects of chronic pain conditions on patients and society
As discussed in the new report, the effects of chronic pain on patients and society can be dire. Patients often experience mental health issues due to the constant pain and the stigmatisation that comes with the condition. It also costs society many millions each year, with a lot of time lost due to disability.
Quality of life is often ranked poorly for those living with chronic pain. It affects every aspect of their lives, including relationships, work, or school. However, with greater awareness of the condition, it could drastically help to improve patients’ lives.
If you are living with chronic pain, help is available. A combination of physiotherapy and pain relief could greatly help to reduce the symptoms, helping you to live a better quality of life.
The first step is a comprehensive clinical assessment. As Pain Consultant Dr Ivanova-Stoilova explains: “The initial evaluation of a patient’s pain must be as thorough as possible to form the basis for an effective, individualised treatment plan which then should be reviewed regularly.
“My clinical assessments will include a general medical history covering the patient’s pain history, a physical examination, psychosocial assessment and any diagnostic testing if required.”