Pain has nearly 25% more of an impact on people’s lives and emotional wellbeing than it did 10 years ago, a new global survey has suggested.
While the prevalence of pain has not increased since the Covid-19 pandemic, the social impact of it has, with almost one in three people now experiencing serious loneliness while in pain.
The study, produced by consumer health brand Haleon, comes alongside a series of resources to help pharmacists engage with patients and understand the wider impact of pain on their lives.
But community pharmacist Sachin Govind commented at a launch event this week that community pharmacists in the UK are limited in what help they can offer to patients, due to time and resourcing constraints, as well as a lack of interoperability with other healthcare professionals and treatment pathways.
The fifth edition of Haleon’s Global Pain Index surveyed 18,097 people across 18 countries.
It found that globally, 91% of people have experienced pain in the last year, while in the UK, 36% of respondents experience pain on a daily basis.
The report also suggested that 49% of people in pain feel stigmatised, while 32% of people living in pain fear they will be judged.
And existing marginalised communities such as women, people of colour and the LGBQ+ community are worst affected, while those between 18-26 years old are more likely to feel unheard than older people aged between 59-77 years old.
It also found that six in 10 people delay seeking treatment for pain, with many people only seeking help during acute episodes of pain.
In the UK, the survey found that 71% of people feel that they can’t access healthcare professionals – the largest proportion out of all countries surveyed globally.
At a launch event this week, panellists emphasised the importance of empathy and ensuring healthcare professionals help patients feel listened to regarding their experience of pain.
In the global survey, over two thirds (68%) of respondents said more empathy to address bias and exclusion would make a real difference to their experience of pain.
And two thirds (62%) of people surveyed globally said that they wished that pharmacists were better trained on how individual pain is for different patients.
At this week’s event, Dr Linda Papadopoulos, psychologist and author, suggested that enabling patients to better describe their pain and exploring the wider impact of their pain on their life would help them to feel heard.
She said that healthcare professionals could be clearer about what they were offering as a reactive solution during a patients’ acute experience of pain as well as more preventative and long term advice, such as exercise.
But community pharmacist Sachin Govind, also speaking on the launch panel, said that community pharmacists were limited in what they could offer patients due to time and resourcing constraints, as well as not being able to refer patients directly for further help or investigations.
He said that this was ‘frustrating’, adding ‘we know we can do more’.
He also said that pain management was not currently a priority among the sector, with a current focus on nationally commissioned cardiovascular services and flu and covid vaccinations.
Mukesh Kumar, global expert lead for over-the-counter (OTC) at Haleon acknowledged the ‘time pressure and the reality of a transactional pharmacy environment’.
But he said that new resources created by the company for healthcare professionals under its new #ListenToPain campaign aimed ‘to optimise and personalise every interaction taking these challenges into account’.
‘An improved discussion on pain is an opportunity for better patient outcomes with pain relief in the short term, and pain management for the long term,’ he added.
‘By understanding how pain is expressed and interpreted, new pain management strategies can be tailored to each individual patient.’
The campaign highlights how different categories of pain might have a wider impact on an individual, as well as how different people might feel more or less comfortable talking about their experiences of pain.
The digital resources, located on digital platform for healthcare professionals Haleon Health Partner, include a series of practical tools for better interactions, assessments, and outcomes, to help pharmacists better understand their patients’ experience of pain and better navigate conversations around pain management.
And a long-term vision for community pharmacy in England, commissioned by Community Pharmacy England and undertaken by the Nuffield Trust and The King’s Fund, explores how pharmacies could provide even more patient support, including pain management.