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Papers of the Week

Papers: 29 May 2021 - 4 Jun 2021

2021 May 29




Chronic pain: an update on burden, best practices, and new advances.


Cohen SP, Vase L, Hooten WM
Lancet. 2021 May 29; 397(10289):2082-2097.
PMID: 34062143.


Chronic pain exerts an enormous personal and economic burden, affecting more than 30% of people worldwide according to some studies. Unlike acute pain, which carries survival value, chronic pain might be best considered to be a disease, with treatment (eg, to be active despite the pain) and psychological (eg, pain acceptance and optimism as goals) implications. Pain can be categorised as nociceptive (from tissue injury), neuropathic (from nerve injury), or nociplastic (from a sensitised nervous system), all of which affect work-up and treatment decisions at every level; however, in practice there is considerable overlap in the different types of pain mechanisms within and between patients, so many experts consider pain classification as a continuum. The biopsychosocial model of pain presents physical symptoms as the denouement of a dynamic interaction between biological, psychological, and social factors. Although it is widely known that pain can cause psychological distress and sleep problems, many medical practitioners do not realise that these associations are bidirectional. While predisposing factors and consequences of chronic pain are well known, the flipside is that factors promoting resilience, such as emotional support systems and good health, can promote healing and reduce pain chronification. Quality of life indicators and neuroplastic changes might also be reversible with adequate pain management. Clinical trials and guidelines typically recommend a personalised multimodal, interdisciplinary treatment approach, which might include pharmacotherapy, psychotherapy, integrative treatments, and invasive procedures.