Department for Health

Chronic pain and how it affects countries in Europe

Mon Nov 20 14:13:00 GMT 2017

European pain Management book cover

'European Pain Management' is a study of the problem of pain in 37 Countries across the broader European area.


Of the 750 million people in Europe, 20% of them, or the population of Germany and France combined, will experience chronic persistent pain at some point in their lives. A minority (8%) will have severe chronic pain. Pain remains the major source of disability worldwide, and is the main reason people present to health care, from general practice to emergency care. So what are we doing about it?

Next month sees the publication of a new book edited by Professor Christopher Eccleston, Director of the Centre for Pain Research at the University of Bath, and his colleagues in the European Pain Federation. Experts in each country reviewed who was presenting to medical services for help, how capable those services are to react, specific problems within each country, and examples of innovation from each nation.

On Wednesday 22nd November Professor Christopher Eccleston presented the findings to the European MEP group on Brain, Mind, and Pain', the scientific committee at the European Parliament in Brussels. He gave a strong message that we need to improve our understanding:

  • of unmanaged acute pain as a major risk factor for reduced quality of life and all cause morbidity.
  • that chronic pain should be considered as a disease in its own right, with its own biology, not only as a symptom of injury and other disease

We need collective action for:

  • coordinated workforce planning. The lack of specialisation and training in most countries hinders progress
  • prioritising pain as a research priority within individual nations and within the EU
  • policy direction on how to increase safe access to opioid medicines where there is evidence for their efficacy

Professor Eccleston said:

"There is a major opportunity for new large-scale solutions for modern chronic pain management by advancing new models of care. Communication technology, and innovations in patient led treatment models, will both allow us to use scarce expertise in new ways"


"Although the pain workforce in Europe is small, especially given the size of the problem, Europe has world leading pain management research, in both discovery and treatment science. We are now at a point where we can trial new ways to reach people in need."

The Centre for Pain Research has for over 10 years focussed on providing the evidence for pain treatments, innovating in chronic pain treatment, and in the use of technology to improve the access to treatments. Their work on novel attention mechanisms of analgesia, on sex differences in pain, and on how to help children with pain and their parents is internationally recognized. They are pioneering mobile health solutions for chronic pain management.