7.8 million people in the UK suffer with chronic, long-term pain. This places a huge burden on the health service, as well as the economy.
Many people continue to suffer pain even after the original injury has healed and they can end up on a spiral of ever stronger painkillers. However, only 2% of chronic pain sufferers see a specialist and a quarter of patients believe their GP does not know how to treat them.
Chronic pain can include arthritis pain, back pain and neuropathic pain – where the physical cause for the condition cannot be found.
Irene Tracey, Nuffield professor of anaesthetic science at Oxford University, said the latest data on chronic pain showing how the brain structure changes and how long-term damage can be done, means I should be defined as a disease.
This would mean the chronic pain would be taken more seriously.
She said there was also a cultural issue to overcome and the idea that pain is good for you, or that women should suffer pain during childbirth is outdated.
Dr Beverly Collett, consultant in pain medicine at University Hospitals of Leicester, said: “”A lot of people get really stigmatised because you cannot see pain.
“We are trying to get pain taken more seriously.”