By: 27 September 2018
New study offers hope for people living with long-term pain

New research published recently by Pain Concern offers the prospect of better care for people living with long-term pain.

Persistent pain affects one-in-five (800,000) people – many of them severely. Pain killers which are commonly used to treat people with long-term pain can sometimes offer only limited relief. The study published in September, used a specially-developed ‘Navigator Tool’ to encourage positive communication between people living with long-term pain and their GP or specialist.
National Lead Clinician for Chronic Pain, Scottish Government, Professor Blair Smith, welcomed the results of the study as a step in the right direction towards a better way of managing this debilitating and widespread condition. He said: ‘’Long-term pain causes so much distress and disability that it’s difficult for people working in the health service to know how to manage it. We use a lot of potentially harmful medicines, and prescribing is often the focus of treatment, for patients and professionals.  But the drugs don’t always work and are rarely the only answer.
‘The Navigator Tool –  which was piloted in this study – can help patients to understand all the different ways in which pain affects them, and therefore all the ways in which they can be helped or can help themselves. It also allows their healthcare professionals to get a quick, in-depth snapshot of the most important areas to address.  Most importantly, it allows an informed and realistic conversation about how we as doctors and pain specialists can work together to improve life with pain.’
Persistent pain is a common condition which is estimated to affect as many as 40 per cent of the population at some point in their lives. It is also affected by psychological and social factors which means it doesn’t respond well to simple models of medical management which can be challenging for health professionals and demoralising for people seeking solutions for the condition.
Pain Concern researcher Renée Blomkvist, who led the study said: ‘People going to their GP often find it hard to pinpoint or talk about their symptoms and many have identified communication as a barrier to enjoying a better quality of life. We wanted to see if we could improve patient-doctor communication with this tool and looked at the way a range of health professionals, including physios, GPs, and pharmacists, used the tool during appointments and whether it was effective. This pilot study did not have the scope to validate the tool, but we saw how it could be used to broaden communication in primary care settings and to explore the psychological factors of persistent pain which was constructive for all those involved.’
The study found that the Navigator Tool was able to:

  • Enable patients and health professionals to see the bigger picture of the pain
  • Improve communication
  • Lead to engaged efficient doctor or clinic appointments
  • Highlight a range of self-management strategies
  • Facilitate positive emotions.

This latest two-year study builds on earlier research which focused on identifying communication barriers faced by people living with long-term pain. Pain Concern has developed a wealth of inspiring and interactive resources from these two studies and a special edition of Airing Pain, the charity’s flagship radio programme will be broadcast on 2 October 2018, exploring the study with some of the experts and researchers involved. All resources are free to access at: