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83% of British people recognise chronic pain as a serious medical condition, only 15% get treatment

Almost 10 million people in the UK suffer from chronic pain, which has a major impact on quality of life and day to day activities, such as work; (1) however many of those people do not have their pain under control or know how to go about seeking the right treatment. 

A survey, which was conducted by St. Jude Medical in collaboration with Pain UK, recently interviewed 1614 people (1090 general respondents and 524 chronic pain sufferers) and found that although chronic pain is quite prevalent, there is a general lack of awareness about what chronic pain is and how it should be treated.

Chronic pain is defined as continuous, long-term pain lasting more than 12 weeks or pain that remains after discomfort would traditionally recede after trauma or surgery. (1) However, recent survey results revealed only 30% of people surveyed who do not suffer from chronic pain actually understand what chronic pain is and how long it lasts. Additionally, for those who do suffer from chronic pain, results indicate many do not seek treatment any further than visiting their GP. In fact, only 15% of those surveyed that suffer from chronic pain have actually visited a pain clinic to receive proper treatment and there is a general lack of awareness about treatments other than basic ‘painkiller’ medication.

Antony Chuter, Chair of Pain UK, said:  “The results of this survey show that there needs to be increased awareness throughout the UK about chronic pain and how it should be treated.  As this survey demonstrates, many people suffering from chronic pain in the UK seek treatment, but go no farther than their GP. Patients should be educated about the treatment options available and also when to see a specialist and GPs should refer patients to pain clinics when necessary.

Dr Vivek Mehta, consultant pain physician, Barts Health NHS Trust commented: “The statistics uncovered in this survey are concerning and a definite indication that awareness must be increased about chronic pain and the proper treatment for it. Although people believe that chronic pain is an actual condition, many are unaware of the treatment options and are living with a condition that has a profound negative impact on their quality of life. Aside from medication, there are numerous types of treatment available for people living with chronic pain, particularly failed back surgery, such as spinal cord stimulation, which works by implanting a “pacemaker” or a form of pulse generator that stimulates the nerves electronically in order to control the pain, and research is showing it to be an effective treatment in reducing patient’s pain. However, people across the UK are not accessing these types of treatment.

Additional survey results:

  • 41% of people surveyed think that surgery is a solution for treating chronic pain. In reality, it is often the opposite. In fact, surgery is increasingly recognised as one of the most frequent causes of chronic pain, with approximately 20% of patients attending chronic pain clinics having pain relating to previous surgery. (2)
  • Over one third of people surveyed believe that rest and relaxation is an effective treatment for chronic pain while another third feel that people just learn to live with it.
  • Nearly 40% of people surveyed believe that chronic pain persists throughout life and this belief increases with age, with almost 47% of people over age 55 holding this perception.


  1. British Pain Society.
  2. Oxford Persisting Post-Operative Pain Study. Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences. 2014.