An autonomous Disease
Generally, pain is considered to be chronic if it persists more than six months1, although it may demonstrate characteristics of chronic pain much earlier. In contrast to acute pain, chronic pain has lost its warning and protective function and becomes a disease in its own right.
Chronic pain is a very common disease. In Europe it strikes one in five (19 per cent) adults, and its prevalence is on the rise. One-third of these European chronic pain sufferers are in severe pain, and almost half have constant pain.2
Chronic Pain greatly impairs Patients’ Quality of Life
A patient’s quality of life can be tremendously affected if chronic pain is not appropriately treated. In addition to constantly suffering from pain, the patient may experience consequences like sleeping disorders, reduced mobility or depression. For these patients, pain means being handicapped physically, socially and psychologically:
- Two-thirds of pain sufferers are less able or unable to sleep
- About 60 per cent of patients with chronic pain are less able or unable to work outside their homes
- One in five chronic pain sufferers have been diagnosed with depression as a result of their pain
- Up to 50 per cent of chronic pain sufferers report a reduced ability to maintain family relationships and sexual relations
In addition to its impact on the patients’ quality of life, chronic pain is also a substantial financial burden for the society. Chronic pain is one of the most cost-intensive forms of suffering in industrialised countries. Across Europe chronic pain accounts for nearly 500 million lost working days every year – costing the European economy around €34 billion3. One in five chronic pain sufferers have lost a job as a result of their pain.
1 Wall PD, Melzack R: Textbook of pain, 1999
2 Breivik H et al.: Survey of chronic pain in Europe: Prevalence, impact on daily life, and treatment. European Journal of Pain, 2006; 10:287-333
3 European Pain Network: Manifesto. Accessible at www.europeanpainnetwork.com/files/EPN_painMap.pdf, last accessed on February 25, 2011