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Chronic pain treatments are failing millions, say experts

Relentless. Unbearable. Overwhelming.

These are just some of the words used by the thousands of people who have revealed their battle with long-term, persistent pain.

An exclusive survey of over 4,000 adults aged 16-75 for BBC News, carried out by research company Ipsos, suggests that a quarter of people in the UK are living with chronic pain - an often hidden and misunderstood condition.

And pain specialists warn the health service is not set up to deal with such complex conditions. They say the treatments on offer are decades behind the science, leaving millions of patients without the support they need to manage their pain.

Jen Proudler says chronic pain has left her grieving for "the person she was".

It started four years ago with sporadic back pain. After several incorrect diagnoses, Jen was eventually told by a neurosurgeon that she had a "pretty massive" far lateral disc herniation in her spine. The pain has now spread around her body - Jen has burning pins and needles sensations down her leg, as well as sharp pain, as if being cut by a razor. Sometimes it's so bad, she can't even bear any fabric to touch it.

"Our nervous system becomes more and more protective, it feels danger and sends warning signals - and those warning signals contribute to the pain," explains Dr Chris Barker, clinical director of an NHS community pain service in Ainsdale, Merseyside.

He says such pain can be hard to diagnose, and the difficulty of getting the correct treatment can make things worse. "Incorrect diagnoses, delayed diagnoses, poor experiences in and out of the health system, not being believed - all of these can contribute to a more intense experience of pain."

Dr Barker says the NHS is not set up to deal with such a complex condition, despite the fact it is so common. "The prevalence of pain is huge. It dwarfs most other conditions."

Read full story

Source: BBC News, 11 May 2022

Further reading: Is pain a patient safety issue? Blog from Patient Safety Learning


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