Chronic pain – defined as any persistent pain lasting more than three months – is rapidly emerging as a significant healthcare challenge in India, said specialists.
With September being observed as pain awareness month, specialists from Interventional Pain and Spine Centre (IPSC), who addressed mediapersons, said more than 19% of the Indian adult population is suffering from chronic pain of some kind, with prevalence being higher in females (25%).
A 2018 survey of 20,000 patients of back pain from Indian metro cities estimated that 46% of Bengaluru’s population below the age of 65 suffers from spinal problems. This is among the highest incidence in India. About 43% of patients neglect the pain for more than seven weeks, leading to delayed treatment and increased risk of surgery, the doctors said.
Quoting the survey, Pankaj N. Surange, Managing Director and CEO of IPSC, India, said the prevalence increases steeply beyond the age of 65. “This may be the tip of the iceberg, as Indians usually understate their health issues and would rather not reveal their pain problems to others,” he said.
The doctor said increasing life expectancy is leading to a rise in elderly population and is driving an increase in the incidence of chronic pain. “The younger population too is getting affected, mainly due to a sedentary and physically inactive lifestyle. The common types of chronic pain faced by people are spinal pain, joint pain and migraine. Arthritis, degenerative conditions of the spine, and cancer are the most common contributors to chronic pain,” he said.
Swati Bhat, Consultant (Interventional Spine and Cancer Pain) at the Centre, said, for most cases of chronic pain, less invasive and target-specific interventions (called interventional pain management) are better alternatives compared to open surgical methods, as these involve less risk and trauma to patients.
“They are also much safer and do not require hospital admission. Since most of these non-surgical procedures can be done in a daycare setting, they cost almost half compared to conventional surgery. Patients can go back home the same day. Early interventions not only relieve pain, but also reduce morbidity and improve quality of life. At present, we have Indian protocols for all interventional procedures for pain management, which is a big step forward,” she added.