Chronic Pain Survey Reveals the Long Path to Diagnosis and Impact on Patients' Lives

Survey for Pain Awareness Month with 2,000 chronic pain patients reveals delays in chronic pain diagnosis and the impact on the quality of life.

One in four chronic pain patients had to wait more than three years to get a diagnosis – this is one of the findings of a survey conducted in the month of July with 2,000 chronic pain patients in the UK, Germany, Italy, and Spain. Chronic pain is defined as continuous and long-term pain lasting for more than 12 weeks.[1] Today, there are 100 million people - or one in five adults - living with chronic pain in Europe.[2]

Delays in the diagnosis

About half the patients (47%) get a chronic pain diagnosis in less than a year after their first consultation with a healthcare professional. However, for a quarter of pain sufferers it took up to three years and, for the remaining quarter, even longer than that. A country deep-dive into the survey data shows that in Italy, almost one in three (30%) had to wait between five and ten years before they received a diagnosis (GER: 13% / UK: 13% / ESP: 8%).

The length in time is also reflected in the number of healthcare professionals consulted before patients were referred to a pain specialist. The majority must consult between one and four general practitioners before being referred, one in eight patients have to consult between five and ten or even more. The main reason why patients have not consulted a pain specialist (35% across all four markets) is because their general practitioner (GP) did not refer them to one. The majority of patients is either diagnosed by a pain specialist (21.3%) or by a specialist with an interest in chronic pain (28.5%), highlighting the added value of consulting a healthcare professional that is specialised in chronic pain. Nonetheless, the importance of the role of general practitioners cannot be undermined as one third (30%) of the patients is diagnosed with chronic pain by their general practitioner.

Massive impact on professional life and quality of life

Given the impact on their professional and personal lives, a quick diagnosis is the key to finding the right treatment to help patients deal with their chronic pain. One in five (22.5%) chronic pain sufferers says they do not work anymore because of their chronic pain and one in three of those surveyed who is still working sometimes has to be absent from work because of pain. This highlights the economic impact of chronic pain in Europe, as well as the extent to which those afflicted with chronic pain suffer.

Not only on the work sphere is there an impact of chronic pain[3]; one in three respondents finds it very hard to do everyday tasks in and around the house. Running errands, doing the dishes, taking public transportation, cleaning their home, gardening or doing laundry are all impacted by chronic pain. As chronic pain can be very tiring and energy-consuming, sufficient rest is vital in handling the symptoms. Unfortunately, very few people who have suffered from chronic pain for more than 10 years find it easy to sleep or get rest (1% in Italy, 8% in the UK, 11% in Germany and 5% in Spain)[4].

Treatments can reduce the suffering

Once patients receive treatment, the positive impact is significant. Based on the survey results, across all treatment methods (e.g. medication, medical technology, physical therapy, etc.) and markets, the share of those who felt extreme pain (selecting 10 on a 1-10 pain score scale) drops from 24% before they started a treatment to 4% after, indicating that the right treatment can significantly improve quality of life.

Boston Scientific has dedicated resources for people who experience chronic pain, including a pain centre locator to find local specialists:


About the survey

The new survey, commissioned by Boston Scientific, asked over 500 members of the UK public about their experience of pain. The UK data is part of a larger survey of 2,000 members of the public from the UK, Italy, Germany and Spain, who were diagnosed with chronic pain to assess the impact of chronic pain on their health and life. Chronic pain was defined as “any type of pain that lasted more than three months.” The survey was conducted by iVOX in July of 2022.


This material is for informational Purposes only and not meant for medical diagnosis. This information does not constitute medical or legal advice, and Boston Scientific makes no representation regarding the medical benefits included in this information. Boston Scientific strongly recommends that you consult with your physician on all matters pertaining to your health.


[1] Mills S, Torrance N, Smith BH. Identification and Management of Chronic Pain in Primary Care: a Review. Current Psychiatry Reports.

[2] Breivik H, Collett B, Ventafridda V, Cohen R, Gallacher D. Survey of chronic pain in Europe: prevalence, impact on daily life, and treatment” by and published in the European Journal of Pain 2006;10(4):287-333 (11).

[3] On a scale of 1 to 10 - 1 being the lowest, 10 being the highest, this is the group that indicated a 10

[4] 1 on a scale of 1 to 10 - 1 being the lowest, 10 being the highest, they indicated 1 (easy).