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Guide by Condition: Chronic Pain

Posted by Mike Phipps on December 10, 2018

Understanding and living with chronic pain

Guide by Condition: Chronic Pain

Around 1 in 4 people in the UK are affected by chronic pain. It can affect people living with other conditions such as diabetes, arthritis, fibromyalgia, IBS and back pain, however, treatments, therapies and mobility aids can help to manage symptoms and maintain independence.

What is chronic pain?

Chronic pain is defined as any pain that lasts more than 12 weeks, despite medication or treatment.  Acute pain is the normal sensation that alerts us to possible injury whereas chronic pain persists, often lasting months or longer. For many people, it often starts after an injury with leading causes including:

  • Migraines & headaches
  • Back problems
  • Arthritis
  • Nerve damage
  • Infections
  • Past injuries or surgeries

Chronic pain can often come with other symptoms such as fatigue, mood changes, trouble sleeping, not feeling hungry and a lack of energy.

Treatment and living well with chronic pain

While chronic pain can cause disruption to daily life and take a strain on mental health, it is possible to live well and recover from chronic pain. The NHS describes “old-fashioned treatment for persistent pain, also known as chronic pain, was bed rest for weeks or months on end. We now know this is the worst possible approach. Exercise and continuing to work are key to recovery”.  As lying in bed for a long time for something like back pain can actually make the symptoms worse and last longer because inactivity makes your muscles and joints stiffen up, bones get weaker and you don’t sleep well. This bed-rest recovery can also lead to feeling isolated and lonely which in severe cases can lead to depression and make the pain feel worse. It can also become harder and harder to get going again.

The best approach to reducing pain is a combination of painkillers and pain relief packs, physical therapy, staying at work and staying as active as possible. An exercise that won’t put too much strain on your body is the best option, something like walking, swimming, dancing, yoga, general chores or gardening. Painful areas can be supported and protected with healthcare aids such as protectors and splints.  Physiotherapists can give you advice on the right type of exercise and even suggest home massagers that can help to ease pain and loosen stiff muscles. Acupuncture is also a common form of physical therapy for chronic pain.

More information and support

The Pain Toolkit -

Action on Pain -

Spine Health -