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Living with pain

July 2016

Nearly half of us are living with continual pain

Let’s face it, most people over 50 will experience a little niggle somewhere or other. As we age, at the moment it is inevitable that bits and pieces will start to show signs of wear and tear. But the British are a stoic lot and many people keep their pain and problems quiet.

But now, according to a new report in the British Medical Journal, around  43% of the UK population lives with chronic pain from conditions such as arthritis. The term chronic has been defined here as a pain that lasts more than three months. This is nearly 28 million adults and, along with disabilities and movement problems, it has to be the cause of enormous stress.

The research, led by Dr Alan Fayaz, a specialist Registrar in Anaesthetics and Critical Care, was started after it was realized there was no consensus or accurate data on the proportion of people living with long term pain in the UK. Their studies, which involved nearly 140,000 adults, indicated that:

  • 43% of adults live with some form of chronic pain
  • 14% of adults live with widespread chronic pain
  • In the over 75 age group, nearly two thirds (62%) live with chronic pain
  • Women are more likely to be affected than men
  • Nearly 6% of UK adults live with fibromyalgia, a condition that causes simultaneous pain in many different parts of the body
  • Around 8% of adults report chronic nerve (neuropathic) pain.

The researchers point out that the studies they used as a base for the research varied considerably, and that not all of them were of high quality, so it is difficult to draw really firm conclusions. However, there is a clear indication of increasing prevalence of chronic pain since the 1990s and with an ageing population, this trend is expected to continue.

Dr Fayaz says that while pain is often a symptom of an underlying medical condition, nevertheless it should also be seen as a disease in itself and taken more seriously by society.

The research was part funded by the Arthritis Research UK, who say there is a definite link between chronic pain and depression.

The hope is that there will be some urgency to now develop better pain management and also better treatments to relieve pain. The research should also help with long term planning for the NHS.

 

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