Study: 7 in 10 chronic pain sufferers delayed seeking medical advice during the pandemic

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7 in 10 UK chronic pain sufferers delayed seeking medical advice during the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving them feeling increased levels of stress, anxiety and worry, new research from Boston Scientific has revealed.

The research, which surveyed 502 UK chronic pain sufferers (those who suffer from continuous and long-term pain lasting more than 12 weeks), as well as 1,500 further respondents from across Italy, Germany and Spain, found that half (50%) of UK respondents had felt uncomfortable at the thought of a face-to-face appointment during the pandemic. While 35 per cent of those surveyed were open to having one in the near future, 15 per cent were unsure when they would feel comfortable again.

The delay in getting advice, guidance and treatment has negatively impacted those with chronic pain, with three in 10 (30%) UK respondents saying it has increased their level of stress and anxiety. Over a quarter (26%) have been left feeling worried about the future because of the current pain they are experiencing, and 25 per cent have not been able to go about their usual lives because of their pain.

When it comes to healthcare appointment formats, almost 7 in 10 (68%) respondents in the UK agreed face-to-face appointments are essential for the treatment of chronic pain, with 74 per cent disagreeing (27% somewhat, 47% strongly) when asked if video appointments were as effective as those in-person.

Chronic pain impacts approximately 100 million people across Europe. The reasons for long term pain might not be apparent and can vary greatly but can have serious negative effects on the quality of life of patients.

The research forms part of Boston Scientific’s Now You Hear Me campaign – which aims to raise awareness of chronic pain and its impact on patients’ lives, and to encourage patients to seek information on treatment options. The Now You Hear Me website aims to give these pain sufferers a face by showing the story of five pain patients in the UK, Germany, Italy and Spain in three videos.

Putting chronic pain in the spotlight

Chronic pain can massively impact even simple everyday activities. The study results show that it is important to shine a light on patient groups who are struggling even more amidst the current situation. Pain is not necessarily visible from the outside, which is why it is so important to us to give a voice to those affected, and we hope to encourage those suffering from it to talk to their physician and discuss therapy options.”

Vincent Sourdaine, Vice President Neuromodulation EMEA, Boston Scientific

Positively, in the UK, more than 1 in 5 (23%) survey respondents agreed the media had increased coverage of chronic pain during the pandemic, however 63 per cent agreed that compared to before the pandemic, there was more confusion around the difference between chronic pain and standard pain.

UK survey results compared to the rest of Europe

Across all markets, female respondents in the UK were the most likely to delay or avoid seeking medical advice for the treatment of new pain (34%). Women in Italy (19%), Germany (27%), and Spain (28%) were all less likely to do so.

Women in the UK were also the most likely to feel an increased level of stress and anxiety due to delaying visiting a health care practitioner, with 35 per cent agreeing with the statement. Unsurprisingly, 22 per cent of women in the UK admitted to feeling scared about the pain they were experiencing when delaying appointments – more than twice as many as among women in Germany (11%) and Italy (9%).

Alarmingly, about every sixth woman and every seventh man in the UK stated they were unable to do daily tasks they did before the pandemic as a result of delaying visiting a health care practitioner – with women in the UK the most affected of all four markets surveyed. The social factor added another dimension to the many challenges faced by pain patients: a fifth of men (20%) and women (21%) in the UK stated they were feeling more lonely or isolated – once again the highest share in the survey.

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