WHO Includes Chronic Pain in New ICD-11

2019 June 17
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“She eats like a pig and grins away happily, watching a comedy show on television; but the moment someone points out the heaps of washing to be done, she starts complaining of pain!”

Are words like these familiar to you? Do you know somebody who seems to live a near-normal life, but is always complaining of pain, and irritating everyone around them? Somebody who is short-tempered and picks up a quarrel easily?

People with cancer pain get some sympathy. People with long-term pain (chronic pain) are shunned.

But their suffering is real, and often, horrendous, because it is for a life time. The source of the pain may not be very clear; it could be from the low back or it could be generally from muscles and joints but over time, the inexorable pain becomes all-consuming. Moreover, since the pain cannot be seen on an X-ray or an MRI, it could be ignored or even laughed at. “It’s all in your head” or “Just stop thinking about it” are common insensitive reactions to their pain.

On 25th May, 2019, thanks to the advocacy by a task force of the International Association for Study of Pain (IASP), chaired by Prof Rolf-Detlef Treede and co-chaired by Winfried Rief, the World Health Organization has approved the new version of International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11), which includes chronic pain for the first time.

What does it matter?

Well, it does matter because now chronic pain is more likely to be recognised as a health issue and to get attention in research and medical teaching.

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