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Managing Pain Q2 2022

Effective pain management needs more resources

iStock / Getty Images Plus / Daisy-Daisy

Dr Arun Bhaskar

President, The British Pain Society

Pain is the leading cause of disability and is the most common reason why people access healthcare. Yet, it accounts for just 1% of national healthcare budgets.

Chronic pain affects more than a third of the world’s population and 93% of people experienced body pain last year. Of people living with pain, 63% suffer every month, 32% suffer weekly and 27% continues to suffer every day. Nearly 50% of women reported that their pain had a significant impact on their daily life. 

Impact of pain on our lives

Two-thirds of people reported that they cannot be happy when experiencing pain and it impacts on their ability to enjoy life. Pain has a direct effect on mental health and relationships. Deprivation and loneliness also contribute adversely to how people manage their pain. Persistent pain impacts performance at work and prevents people from getting back into employment.

Addressing taboo of pain

Most healthcare systems are geared to address acute conditions that cause pain and manage it alongside underlying causes like arthritis, trauma, cancer and various other pathologies. However, many people suffer from persistent pain even after the underlying pathology has been successfully addressed. Most people state that their pain is still a taboo subject to discuss openly. Healthcare professionals often come across as unsupportive and sometimes even dismissive.

Two-thirds of people reported that they cannot be happy when experiencing pain and it impacts on their ability to enjoy life.

Delay in accessing services

Patients undergo multiple and often unnecessary investigations in search of a potential cause for their pain. Often the psychosocial and cultural aspects of pain and how it is perceived and projected are overlooked.

Patients are referred to pain management services late in their journey and by this time, maladaptive illness behaviours have been reinforced due to lack of adequate support from healthcare and social care services. People living with pain seldom get specific support in a timely manner and this adversely affect their physical and mental wellbeing.

Greater investment needed

There are no simple answers to these complex problems. Better resource allocation and streamlining pain management services through appropriate clinical pathways would be a good start. Not only is more funding required to support the growing demands of supporting an aging population, but adequate training for the workforce is also needed to deliver effective healthcare and social care. 

There are ambitious plans to deliver most of the pain management in the community through primary care services, health coaches and social prescribing. This would be successful if there is seamless integration with secondary care and specialist services so that the patient can get the right support from appropriate interdisciplinary and multispeciality input when needed.

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