What is chronic pain?

Chronic pain is defined as continuous, long-term pain that has lasted for more than six months, or that prolongs after the time that healing would have been thought to have occurred.1 Chronic pain can also occur when no obvious cause for it can be found; this is thought to be due to changes in the body’s nervous system2

There are 95 million people living with chronic pain in Europe3, and the total cost to healthcare systems across the EU is estimated to be as high as €300 billion4.


Types of chronic pain

Chronic pain can be divided into two classes: nociceptive and neuropathic.2 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.5

Neuropathic pain is often described as numbness, tingling or like an electric shock.2 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.5 It is often under-diagnosed and under-treated.5

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