CHRONIC PAIN affects millions of people worldwide
The International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP) defines chronic pain as pain that persists in excess of 3 months. This differs from acute pain, which occurs immediately after injury and, over time, subsides.
Pain is the public health problem of the 21st century. It is estimated that there are approximately 1.5 million chronic pain sufferers in Ireland.
It is the main reason we visit GPs and the main reason we take medication. It is a major cause of disability and a key factor in our quality of life and productivity.
While chronic pain is most commonly located in the back, it may manifest in the arms, legs, head, or other locations.
Areas associated with Chronic Pain:
· Low Back Pain
· Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS)
· Joint Pain
· Intervertebral Disc Herniation
· Lumbar Disc Degeneration
· Lumbar Radiculopathy
· Neck Pain
· Sciatica (Not Due to Disc Displacement)
· Spinal Stenosis
· Nerve Pain
The cost of pain is phenomenal especially when viewed through sick days taken from work. Per patient, per year, the cost is estimated at €5,665. For intensive users of the healthcare system this cost rockets to €29,936. Giving a total cost of €5.34 billion per annum*.
Incredibly, Pain Medicine was only recognized by the Irish Medical Council in 2014. Public policy continues to grapple with the plight of the pain sufferer.
Successful treatment lies between the patient and the physician; through education, research, improved diagnosis, improved management and a focus on self-management.
Chronic and recurrent pain has broad consequences on a patient’s life. The list below starts with the physical issues but there is no hierarchy in the world of pain.
· Immobility and consequent wasting of muscle, joints, etc.
· Immune system depression & increased susceptibility to disease
· Disturbed sleep
· Poor appetite & nutrition
· Dependence on medication
· Over-dependence on family & other caregivers
· Overuse and inappropriate use of professional healthcare systems
· Poor performance on the job, or inability to work, disability
· Isolation from society & family, turning inwards
· Anxiety, fear
· Bitterness, frustration, depression, suicide
*Raferty et al; Pain 2011