PainSA is a chapter of the International Association for the Study of Pain. Our mission is to improve all aspects of pain management in Southern Africa.

Pain Chronification: What Should a Non-Pain Medicine Specialist Know?

Chronic pain ranks among the most prevalent reasons prompting individuals to seek consultation with their primary care provider, affecting approximately one in five adults in Europe. Nonetheless, effectively managing pain in primary care poses a challenge due to inadequate assessment and reporting. The enduring presence of chronic pain significantly diminishes the quality of life, reduces workforce engagement and productivity, and escalates healthcare expenditures. In the United States, annual costs associated with chronic pain are estimated to range from $US560 to $635 billion, while in Europe, healthcare and socioeconomic expenditures linked to chronic pain account for 3–10% of the gross domestic product.

The concept of pain has been delineated by various entities over time, typically classified into “acute” and “chronic” categories. Acute pain is commonly described as the physiological response to adverse stimuli such as surgery, trauma, or illness. Conversely, chronic pain, as traditionally defined by the International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP), refers to pain persisting beyond the normal healing period of around three months, lacking apparent biological significance. Unlike acute pain, chronic pain is recognized to lack a protective function. A more contemporary understanding of pain posits it as a distressing experience linked to actual or potential tissue damage, encompassing sensory, emotional, cognitive, and social dimensions.