New research shows chronic pain is not being adequately measured

New research released today to mark European Week Against Pain 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 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.
The survey, PROACT (Primary care Resources, Objectives And Challenges in Treatment), of 1,309 primary care physicians 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 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.
The findings of the OMPC survey are supported by a previously published pan-European in-depth 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.
Discussing the findings, Dr Martin Johnson, of the OPENMinds Primary Care group and RCGP Clinical Champion for Chronic Pain says: “Awareness of the impact of pain and the need for correct assessment and monitoring is crucial. People with chronic pain and their physicians need to work together to ensure that there is regular and comprehensive assessment. Accurate assessment of pain in a consultation is achievable using the right techniques. The correct assessment of pain from the outset, leads to better overall management and care in the long term.”
A new video clip is being launched during the European Federation of IASP Chapters (EFIC) initiated European Week Against Pain to highlight the impact of pain on patients’ quality of life and encourage dialogue between patients and physicians, a vital starting point for improved assessment of pain.
Professor Hans G. Kress, President of EFIC added: “Assessment is vital to our understanding of pain. There is a real need to determine whether any notable improvements in pain intensity have occurred during consultation. This cannot be achieved without proper assessment.”
1. Johnson, M. et al. What support do primary care physicians need to overcome barriers to effective management of chronic pain? OPENMinds Primary Care initiative. Poster presented at the 7th Congress of the European Federation of IASP Chapters (EFIC), Hamburg, Germany, 21-24 September 2011.

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Pharmacology/ Therapeutics  •  Regulatory


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