By: 17 October 2012

A new series of events on how to deal with chronic pain makes its debut on October 18th. “It’s A Pain” will address how we attempt to live with pain of different kinds and how we can seek to overcome its potentially devastating effect on our quality of life.

The series, organised by Durham University and County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust, will look at the anatomy of pain, the discomfort caused by anxiety and depression, analgesic drugs and their limitations, the effectiveness or otherwise of complementary medicine and the role of exercise. Furthermore, the politics of pain management in the UK and in the developing world will also be debated.

“It’s A Pain” has been conceived by Dr Paul Chazot from Durham University’s Wolfson Research Institute for Health and Wellbeing and the North Durham and Darlington NHS Trust Pain Management groups.

“Dr Chazot said: “Chronic pain has never been a more relevant topic. About a fifth of the world’s population is believed to suffer from it. In Europe, chronic pain accounts for nearly 500 million lost working days every year and costs the European economy more than £28bn during the same time period.

“A debate’s definitely required on the state of pain management, not just here in the UK but in places like sub-Saharan Africa; in many countries there, drugs to cope with pain in any context, from headaches to major operations, simply aren’t available. By contrast in the UK, we’re quite rightly prevented from treating sick animals without pain killers, let alone people.

“Yet we have our own issues with pain which won’t be going away; as work hours have increased, stress levels have risen. Amongst other issues, we’ll investigate and explain how stress decreases our pain threshold and therefore increases that pain. We’ll also look at how our sedentary lifestyles in front of TV and computers will continue to result in a rise in chronic pain throughout the population.

“I’ve designed this series to raise awareness of the growing seriousness of pain disorders and deliver a community-based approach for all ages to give advice on how to avoid pain and deal with long-term chronic pain.”

Dr David Laird Consultant in the Pain Management Team said: “Helping professionals and people with persistent pain understand it and its impact on life is the first step in helping patients manage their condition through lifestyle changes as well as using medical interventions.”

The first lecture on October 18th is entitled “How The Brain Is Wired For Pain” by Dr Michael Lee, a researcher at Oxford University and consultant in pain management.

Dr Lee said: “I’ll be considering how subjective the experience of pain may be and how it ultimately emerges from the brain. Pain serves a useful and protective purpose in everyday life. For example, feeling pain whilst waiting for an injury to heal is normal. However, sometimes pain doesn’t go away even after the injury has healed the best it can.

“These patients can also suffer from anxiety and depression, both of which complicate and contribute to pain. This makes the study of any one cause of chronic pain very difficult. We need research that is focused on understanding why pain persists in certain patients and to come up with ways to prevent or better manage it.

In addition to the lecture series, “It’s A Pain” will aim to involve all age groups in workshops based in schools and community centres to further increase awareness of the issues around chronic pain and how to cope with it individually, while also supporting friends and family members.