What is chronic pain?

Chronic pain is defined as continuous and long-term pain lasting for more than 12 weeks1. Chronic pain can persist for months or even years and can be very difficult to treat2.

Chronic pain can occur anywhere in the body, with back pain being the most commonly reported location3.
It may follow an illness or an injury that appears to have healed or may develop for no apparent reason.

There are 100 million people - or 1 in 5 adults - living with chronic pain in Europe4. And the total cost to healthcare systems across Europe is estimated to be as high as €300 billion5. Women are more likely to be affected by chronic pain than men3. Chronic pain is also more common amongst people employed in jobs involving intense physical activity e.g. construction workers6.

Chronic pain can have a significant impact on people’s quality of life6. Without relief, chronic pain can disrupt daily routines, with everyday tasks such as cooking, shopping and housework becoming difficult to undertake. Chronic pain can also cause tiredness, depression and anxiety7.


Types of chronic pain

Chronic pain can be divided into two classes: nociceptive and neuropathic.3 Everyone will experience nociceptive pain at some point and it includes such things like cutting yourself, a burn or an injury. Conversely, neuropathic pain is caused by a problem with nerve pathways, which means the way that the nerve sends pain messages to the brain is affected.8

Neuropathic pain is often described as numbness, tingling or like an electric shock.3 It is a debilitating condition and although the exact number of people suffering from this (the so-called prevalence) is unknown, some European based studies have estimated it at anywhere between seven to 37 per cent.7 It is often under-diagnosed and under-treated.7

Neuropathic Pain Nociceptive Pain
Described as:
Burning Opioid-resistant
Described as:
Burning Opioid-resistant
The result of:
Damage of nervous system Pathological changes
 
The result of:
Mechanical, thermal or chemical excitation or trauma Somatic/visceral causes
Examples of conditions: 
Radiculopathies Neuralgias failed back syndrome Complex regional pain syndrome Arachnoiditis
Examples of conditions: 
Bone pain, Cancer pain, Pain elicited by tissue injury

 

Brochure