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Recognise chronic pain as a distinct diagnosis, urges GP

Dr Blair Smith has called for chronic pain to be recognised as a distinct diagnosis and for GPs to stop treating it just as a side-effect.

Dr Smith, a GP in Aberdeen, was commenting after taking part in a research involving 12,000 women enrolled in the RCGP Oral Contraception Study.

The study used a questionnaire to assess pain in nine locations in the body.

As well as an association between oral contraceptive use and chronic pain, the condition was also associated with manual social class and area of residence. Women in Wales were particularly badly affected.

Dr Smith said this could

reflect cultural factors within social classes or particular


He added: 'GPs should think of chronic pain as a chronic illness and approach its management and prevention as they approach any other chronic illness.

'Pain is often seen as just a side-effect of another condition – in many cases the pain

is the worst factor for the


Almost 40 per cent of women reported chronic pain. Back pain was found to be most common, with leg pain second.

Patients were more likely to attend their GP with head pain or chest pain than for pain in other areas of the body.

The study's authors

concluded that the number of sites may be more important than where the pain was

located in diagnosing chronic pain.

The research was published in the February issue of Family Practice.

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