UK Pain Key Messages

There are a large number of messages used for chronic pain by a variety of organisations

The aim of the UK Pain Messages is to define and gain consensus and consistency over the facts and figures used when highlighting the burden of Chronic Pain in the UK.

These messages, separately in the public domain, have been approved by the following organisations/individuals: the Faculty of Pain Medicine, the Royal College of General Practitioners' Chronic Pain Lead, the British Pain Society, the Chronic Pain Policy Coalition and importantly patients via Pain UK.

Key Messages

  • The Departments of Health for England and Scotland recognises chronic pain as a long-term condition in its own right and as a component of other long-term conditions.1
  • Approximately 8 million adults report chronic pain that is moderate to severely disabling.2 From the same report, it is estimated that 43% of adults (just under 28 million people) currently live with a degree of chronic pain in the United Kingdom. The prevalence in older age groups is even higher, with up to 62% of those aged 75 and over reporting chronic pain symptoms.3
  • A person living with pain will have a very poor quality of life - much worse than other conditions, and as bad as significant neurological diseases such as Parkinson's.4
  • Low back pain is ranked highest out of 291 conditions studied by the Global Burden of Disease study, ranking number one for years lost to disability worldwide. In fact four of the top 12 disabling conditions globally are persistent pain conditions (low-back and neck pain, migraine, arthritis, other musculoskeletal conditions).5
  • 41% of people who attended pain clinics report that their pain has prevented them from working, and 13% have had to reduce their hours.6 Chronic pain may affect up to 30% of young adults of working age (18-39 year olds).3
  • 66% of people attending A&E seeking help with pain had more than three visits to a healthcare professional in the preceding six months.6
  • The 2008 Chief Medical Officer report states that 25% of pain sufferers lose their jobs; 16% of sufferers feel their chronic pain is so bad that they sometimes want to die.7
  • Men and women in the lowest income households are more likely to report chronic pain (42%), compared to those in the highest quintile (27%).4
  • Severe chronic pain is associated with increased risk of mortality, independent of socio-demographic factors.8
  • Attending specialist pain services improves quality of life (in total, 56% of providers reported post-treatment improvement in EQ5D-3L score, and 76% reported improvement specifically in pain-related quality of life).6

25% of pain sufferers lose their jobs; 16% of sufferers feel their chronic pain is so bad that they sometimes want to die.

Professor Sir Liam Donaldson
Chief Medicial Officer, 2008
British Pain Society

The British Pain Society is the oldest and largest multidisciplinary professional organisation in the field of pain within the UK.  Our multidisciplinary nature is pivotal in making The British Pain Society a uniquely relevant representative body on all matters relating to pain.

Pain UK

Pain UK envisions a world where everyone enjoys living the best possible quality of life, free from or in control of, the ongoing effects of pain. Our aim is to ensure that the voice of people living in pain is heard and to raise awareness of the burden of pain on individuals and society.

Chronic Pain Policy Coalition

The Chronic Pain Policy Coalition brings together a wide range of professional bodies, patient organisations, parliamentarians and industry representatives, with one purpose: to work together to improve the lives of people living with pain and their families. 


  1. Department of Health. Long Term Conditions Compendium of Information: Third Edition. DH; 2012.
  2. Von Korff M, Ormel J, Keefe FJ, Dworkin SF. Grading the severity of chronic pain. Pain 1992;50:133–49.
    Comment: The Chronic Pain Grade Scale (CPGS) developed by Von Korff and colleagues is a validated, bidirectional tool that assesses the severity of chronic pain, based on its characteristics and the impact on a person's activities. The scale uses a severity score based on participants’ subjective assessment of their: current pain; worst and average pain over previous six months; pain related disability and pain interference with social and work related activity. An algorithm divides respondents into: low disability, low intensity chronic pain (Grade I); low disability, high intensity chronic pain (Grade II); high disability, moderately limiting chronic pain (Grade III); and high disability, severely limiting chronic pain (Grade IV).
  3. Fayaz A, Croft P, Langford RM, Donaldson LJ, Jones GT. Prevalence of chronic pain in the UK: a systematic review and meta-analysis of population studies. BMJ Open 2016;6:e010364 doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2015- 010364.
  4. Bridges S. Health Survey for England 2011: Chronic pain (Chapter 9, pp291-323). Health and Social Care Information Centre; 2012.
  5. Hoy D, March L, Brooks P, et al. The global burden of low back pain: estimates from the Global Burden of Disease 2010 study. Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases. Published online March 24 2014.
  6. National Pain Audit Final Report 2010-2012. Dr Foster Intelligence, British Pain Society, Healthcare Quality Improvement Partnership; 2012. 
  7. Donaldson Sir L. Chief Medical Offer 2008 Annual Report. Chapter - Pain: Breaking through the Barrier.
  8. Torrance N, Elliott AM, Lee AJ, Smith BH. Severe chronic pain is associated with increased 10 year mortality. A cohort record linkage study. Euro J Pain 2010; 14 (4): 380-83.

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