20 most painful conditions

Although people’s perceptions of pain can vary, the NHS has recently released a list of the conditions that can cause excruciating, long-term pain that is considered ‘disabling’, preventing you from performing daily tasks.

The conditions range from more common health concerns such as migraines to less well-known conditions such as trigeminal neuralgia or complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS).

Here are some of the most painful conditions and treatment options:


Shingles is a viral infection that causes a painful rash and is caused by the varicella-zoster virus, which also causes chicken pox. After you have suffered chicken pox, the virus can lie inactive in the nerve tissue and it is estimated that one in every four people will experience shingles later on in life. The main symptom of shingles is pain which may be a constant dull or burning sensation but sometimes presents as sharp, stabbing pains. The good news is that an episode of shingles usually lasts between two and six weeks.

Cluster headaches pain

 Fortunately, cluster headaches are rare as the pain is very severe and usually presents as a sharp, burning or piercing sensation felt around the eye, brow and the face. It tends to only affect one side of the face. Bouts can last weeks and months, followed by periods of remission and over-the-counter painkillers aren’t effective in alleviating the pain caused by cluster headaches as they’re too slow to work. However, there are treatments available to reduce pain and the frequency of headaches.

Frozen shoulder pain

Frozen shoulder, known medically as adhesive capsulitis, is characterised by pain and stiffness in the shoulder. Pain can sometimes become worse at night and make it impossible to perform normal activities. Although frozen shoulder should resolve itself after a couple of years, treatments such as pain relief, steroid injections and physiotherapy can accelerate healing.

Slipped disc pain

A slipped disc, also known as a herniated or prolapsed disc, occurs when the soft cushion of tissue between the vertebrae in your spine becomes damaged. It can cause severe and sudden lower back pain and can even result in leg pain. A recent poll by the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP) revealed that people suffering from a slipped disc often have a deep-rooted fear of movement because they believe it will make pain worse. However, it is essential to keep doing regular exercise and treatments such as physiotherapy can help to reduce pain.

Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) pain

CRPS is described by the NHS as a ‘poorly understood condition’ and it presents as persistent severe and debilitation pain, typically resulting from an injury to the arm or leg. It can also travel from the affected limb to other parts of the body and the skin can also become sensitive to the touch. Some cases of CRPS will improve over time, but some patients will always experience pain.

Other conditions listed by the NHS include:

  • Broken bones
  • Heart attack
  • Sickle cell disease
  • Arthritis
  • Migraine
  • Sciatica
  • Kidney stones
  • Appendicitis
  • Trigeminal neuralgia
  • Acute pancreatitis
  • Gout
  • Endometriosis
  • Stomach ulcer
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Pain after surgery

Pain expert Dr Ivanova-Stoilova treats a wide range of conditions. For more advice, call 01633 820300to arrange a consultation at the St Joseph’s Hospital, Newport.