Chronic pain is a term used to describe any pain that’s been present for longer than three months. In this case, chronic essentially means persisting for a long time or constantly reoccurring. The pain might be intermittent, constant, and can vary in severity. You may find your chronic pain is a little bit of a nuisance, or it could be completely debilitating.
A recent study in the British Medical Journal estimates that up to 48% of UK adults could be living with chronic pain, with 14% of people living with chronic pain that is either moderately or severely debilitating. The researchers used data from 19 studies, across 140,000 people. As this study was a systematic review and meta-analysis of existing data, the results are only as reliable as the initial studies. The results in the individual studies varied, which means the data may not be 100% accurate, however, this does give us an insight into the prevalence of chronic pain.
The results of the study:
Prevalence of chronic pain ranged from 35% to 51% in the individual studies.
Prevalence of chronic pain increased with age. Ranging from 14.3% in younger adults to 62% for those over 65.
14% of people had chronic widespread pain.
8.2 – 8.9% of people had neuropathic pain.
5.4% of people had fibromyalgia.
Women were more likely to suffer from chronic pain than men.
The researchers concluded that as our population ages we will see an increase in people suffering from chronic pain.
There are many reasons why so many people are living with chronic pain, and may not even be seeking treatment.
They may believe the only solution is long-term painkillers.
Their doctor or therapist have been unable to give a diagnosis, and so they feel like there is nothing that can be done.
They have an unhealthy attitude towards pain, thinking that it’s a sign of weakness or something that they just need to live with.
They assume living with pain is just a normal part of getting old.
There are ways chronic pain can be reduced or managed. Even when pain is psychosomatic (caused or aggravated by a mental factor such as stress or trauma), there are still things that can be done to treat it. Having chronic pain does not necessarily mean a life of painkillers!
As a society, acknowledging chronic pain is something that we often fall behind on. In general, people have a limited understanding of chronic pain, and some people may dismiss pain that does not have a clear cause as being ‘in the mind’, or not as bad as acute pain, for example, a broken leg.
In the workplace, employers may not be understanding that their employee is still having problems with their pain. When we offer up our bus seats, we tend to do so for people who are visibly disabled, elderly or pregnant, without regard for people who may be experiencing intense pain without a clear visible indicator.
People who suffer from chronic pain often report that they feel like people assume they are making it up or creating excuses. This is far from the case. It can be a real struggle to live in pain without treatment, let alone acknowledgement.
We urge people who have been suffering in silence to get treatment. A physiotherapist can help to make a diagnosis, and we have treatment available such as acupuncture, sports massage, Theraflex therapy or general hands-on physio. We’re offering free 30 minute assessments, so you can find out about what could be causing your pain and which is the best route forward, with no obligation. To book yours, click here.
There are other treatment options for people who are struggling, such as talking therapy, meditation, CBT or self-management.
The Pain Toolkit is a comprehensive resource, put together by Chronic Pain Sufferers.
You may also find our blog 10 Tips to Help You Understand and Manage Chronic Pain helpful.