A BBC-commissioned study of 4,000 people aged 16-75 found that a quarter of adults living in the UK live with chronic pain.
One of those who suffer from chronic pain is Jen Proudler.
After several misdiagnoses, a neurosurgeon finally told Jen that she had a “pretty big” spinal herniation in her spine, that is, a herniated disc that was compressing the nerves around it.
But by the time he was diagnosed, something had started to change in his body and his immune system had gone into overdrive in response to the pain he was feeling. The pain was now spreading throughout his body and he felt a burning and tingling sensation in his leg and a sharp pain as if it had been cut with a razor blade. Sometimes this pain was so bad that he couldn’t even bear the cloth touching his skin.
The director of a private pain clinic affiliated with the National Health Service in Liverpool, Dr. “Our nervous system becomes increasingly protective, sensing danger and sending out warning signals, which in turn adds to pain,” says Chris Barker.
Saying that such pain is hard to diagnose and makes it hard to get the right treatment can make things worse. According to Barker, “Misdiagnoses, delayed diagnoses, bad experiences in the healthcare system, disbelief, all of these can contribute to further exacerbation of pain.”
Dr. “Pain is very common. It overshadows most other ailments,” Barker says.
Previous research shows that chronic pain affects between 20-50% of the population in the UK; The prevalence of pain increases with age.
What is chronic pain?
- Persistent pain that lasts longer than three months despite medication or other forms of treatment.
- Secondary chronic pain is pain caused by another disease, such as arthritis, endometriosis, cancer.
- Primary chronic pain is a condition in itself; that is, no other known condition other than the pain itself has been diagnosed. This includes diseases such as fibromyalgia or complex regional pain syndrome.
- Chronic pain is often confused with acute pain: temporary, short-term pain, such as a broken bone or muscle tear, is acute pain.
According to the UK health and care watchdog (NICE), chronic primary pain should not be treated with opioids or even the most common painkiller, paracetamol. In Scotland, opioids can be used to treat chronic pain in some cases.
Results from the BBC’s Ipsos survey show that around a quarter of people with chronic pain are currently taking opioids. These can range from drugs like codeine to stronger painkillers like morphine and fentanyl.
Opioids are useful for short-term acute pain, but there is little evidence that they are good for long-term persistent pain.
Despite this, opioid prescriptions more than doubled between 1998 and 2018. This prompted the UK Medicines Regulator (MHRA) to issue new warnings about the risk of addiction and overdose.
BBC research shows that more than 40% of those currently using opioids started using them five years before these warnings were issued.
Ways to manage chronic pain
Patients often need the support of general practitioners, physiotherapists, psychologists and pharmacists.
Depending on the situation, medication may help, but medication may only be part of the treatment. Other auxiliary elements include:
- Physiotherapy (hot or cold compresses, massage, hydrotherapy)
- Psychological therapies (trauma therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, meditation)
- join support groups
Research commissioned by the BBC shows that 23% of people with chronic pain are on the waiting list for surgery or a pain management programme.
Over the past 20 years, scientific research on pain has made great progress.
New research shows that pain is not always caused by physical damage, but sometimes pain can be felt even when there is no physical problem.
For this reason, methods such as MRI may not always work to find the cause of pain.