Clinical Features

Raising Awareness of Chronic Pain during Pain Awareness Month

Chronic pain, unlike acute pain, is pain that persists beyond the normal time of healing and this is generally accepted as pain that lasts longer than three months.

The International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP) redefined pain in 2020 as “An unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with, or resembling that associated with, actual or potential tissue damage,” and is expanded upon by the addition of six key notes and the etymology of the word pain for further valuable context.

Chronic primary pain represents chronic pain as a disease in itself. Chronic primary pain is characterized by significant functional disability or emotional distress that is not better accounted for by another diagnosis. Here you find chronic widespread pain, chronic primary musculoskeletal pain (previously termed “non specific”), as well as primary headaches and conditions such as chronic pelvic pain and irritable bowel syndrome. They are recognised as a group of chronic pain syndromes for the first time in the International Classification of Diseases 11th Revision – the global standard for diagnostic health information (ICD-11).

Chronic secondary pain is chronic pain where the pain is a symptom of an underlying condition. Chronic secondary pain is organised into the following six categories:

  1. Chronic cancer-related pain is chronic pain that is due to cancer or its treatment, such as chemotherapy. Represented in ICD-11 for the first time.
  2. Chronic postsurgical or post-traumatic pain is chronic pain that develops or increases in intensity after a tissue trauma (surgical or accidental) and persists beyond three months. It is also part of the ICD for the first time.
  3. Chronic secondary musculoskeletal pain is chronic pain in bones, joint and tendons arising from an underlying disease classified elsewhere. It can be due to persistent inflammation associated with structural changes or caused by altered biomechanical function due to diseases of the nervous system.
  4. Chronic secondary visceral pain is chronic pain secondary to an underlying condition originating from internal organs of the head or neck region or of the thoracic, abdominal or pelvic regions. It can be caused by persistent inflammation, vascular mechanisms or mechanical factors.
  5. Chronic neuropathic pain is chronic pain caused by a lesion or disease of the somatosensory nervous system. Peripheral and central neuropathic pain are classified here. These diagnoses are also newly represented in the ICD.
  6. Chronic secondary headache or orofacial pain contains the chronic forms of symptomatic headaches – those termed primary headaches in the International Classification of Headache Disorders 3rd edition (ICHD-3) are part of chronic primary pain – and follows closely the ICHD-3 classification. Chronic secondary orofacial pain, such as chronic dental pain, supplements this section of ICD-11.

What causes Chronic Pain?

There are many causes of chronic pain such as an illness or injury where you recover, but pain remains. There may be an ongoing cause of pain e.g. arthritis or cancer. Many people suffer chronic pain in the absence of any past injury or evidence of illness.

How is chronic pain treated?

Chronic pain impacts on every aspect of a person’s life. The most effective treatment includes symptom relief and support. A multidisciplinary approach to pain management is often required, providing interventions that help manage the pain. Public pain management programmes are available in some hospitals.

How can Chronic Pain Ireland help?

Chronic Pain Ireland (CPI) is the national charity providing information, education and support services to people living with Chronic Pain, their families, friends, caregivers and other interested parties. We advocate on their behalf and work closely with all stakeholders.

Our range of supports include:

  • Self-management workshops
  • Telephone support line
  • Monthly e-Newsletter
  • Patient and Public Involvement (PPI) research partnerships
  • Member meetings
  • Public awareness events

About Pain Awareness Month Campaign

The World Health Assembly (WHA), a subsection of the World Health Organization (WHO), has declared September as Pain Awareness Month. Throughout the month of September, many organisations around the globe contribute and raise awareness of chronic pain. This year Chronic Pain Ireland is once again supporting this campaign and our 2022 theme is Inspiring pain freedom.

About the 2022 theme

The journey with pain is unique for each and every one of us, it can be shaped by our injury or condition, experiences, learned responses, prior traumatic events, stigma and suppressed emotions to name but a few. All of these need to be successfully addressed so that recovery can begin. We want to inspire and empower people by ensuring they have the knowledge, skills and self-awareness to take control and improve their quality of life.

In Chronic Pain Ireland, part of that journey starts with self-management strategies and tools.

Some of our activities during Pain Awareness Month (PAM)

The HSE in conjunction with Chronic Pain Ireland are supporting our members during PAM and offering a number of the Living Well with Chronic Pain Programmes. These programmes run for 7 weeks and details of these specific events can be found via Information leaflets on chronic pain have been distributed to GP’s across the country and an electronic advert campaign commences in September to help increase awareness among healthcare professionals.

We are holding a number of informative talks and webinars throughout September, details of which can be found on our website.  We are partnering with Hidden Disabilities Sunflower Ireland to launch a hidden disability lanyard on September 1st and, as part of our 30th Anniversary,  our members will each receive a hidden disabilities lanyard specific to chronic pain.

If you would like to learn more about Chronic Pain Ireland, become a member or support our work, you can visit


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