Survey Reveals Truths about Chronic Pain

New research released Sunday to mark European Week Against Pain (Oct. 10 – 14) reveals that, in more than half of cases, peoples’ levels of pain across Europe are not being adequately assessed.

More than half (52%) of European primary care physicians use no form of assessment tool to measure peoples’ levels of pain despite chronic (back) pain affecting 1 in 5 adults across Europe.

A study in Finland found that pain is also the reason for 40% of patient visits to a primary care physician each year, with approximately 20% of these patients having experienced their pain for more than 6 months.

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The survey of 1,309 primary care physicians (PCPs) from 13 European countries was initiated by OPENMinds Primary Care (a group of physicians with a special interest in pain) and funded by Mundipharma International Limited.

Key findings show 84% of physicians agree that chronic (back) pain is one of the most challenging conditions to treat and 81% agree that the impact of chronic pain on patients’ ‘quality of life’ tends to be under assessed in primary care. Assessment is key to ensuring chronic pain is properly controlled, so these findings were a serious concern to the group.

Further pan-European data reveals that chronic pain can severely affect peoples’ daily activities including the ability to sleep, exercise and carry out household tasks. Many people with chronic pain are less able, or no longer able, to maintain relationships with family and friends or attend social functions.

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The findings of the OMPC survey are supported by a previously published pan-European survey of over 4,000 adults with chronic pain, where 71% of people reported that the most common way for their doctor to determine how much pain they were experiencing was for them to tell the doctor about their pain themselves, rather than by the doctor using a pain scale.

In fact, only 9% of chronic pain patients reported that they had ever been scored on a pain scale by any doctor or medical professional.

The OMPC group believes there should be a more proactive approach to the assessment of chronic pain, from both people with chronic pain and their physicians, with more frequent and open dialogue.

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Pain is a widespread problem across Europe, and an estimated one in five adults is affected with moderate to severe chronic pain. The International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP) defines pain as ‘an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage, or described in terms of such damage.

The PROACT in Pain survey was carried out amongst 1,309 PCPs from 13 European countries (Belgium, Denmark, Ireland, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and UK). Fieldwork started in May 2011 and was completed by July 2011.

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Rakesh Raman