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Community pharmacy has an existing role in the management of pain. This is evident through the volume of prescriptions dispensed and the wide range of simple analgesics offered.
Between one-third and a half of all adults in the UK suffer from chronic pain, corresponding to about 28 million people.
Pain is very individual and only the person feeling the pain can properly describe it. Some pains are obviously a simple response to an injury and after the injury is healed, the pain goes. Many chronic pains can be less obvious and they can affect every part of a person’s life.
Chronic pain can affect their ability to work, their relationships with family and friends, activity levels, sleep and independence. All of this can become overwhelming and can cause a vicious circle of pain and distress.
It is now widely accepted that longstanding pain and disability can only be understood and managed within a biopsychosocial model. Since people’s beliefs about pain, disease and disability are the largest predictors of pain-associated disability, treatment must address the role of biological, psychological and social factors as obstacles to recovery.
We also know that there is a growing problem of addiction to prescribed medicines. A recent report in New Scientist described addiction to prescribed drugs as a public health disaster. The authors clarify that for short-term and cancer pain opiates might be the best, but in the long term the drugs become ineffective and can sensitise pain nerves, meaning that over time non-painful stimuli become painful.