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Our understanding of what is helpful to people experiencing persistent pain has changed. 

This website has been designed to support the people of Fife to understand more about the management of pain and what can help those experiencing persistent pain to gain more control over their pain. With our understanding of what is helpful in the realm of persistent pain, we hope to encourage you to start to think differently about your condition.

Chronic pain is a recognised long term condition in the same way as asthma, diabetes or high blood pressure.

About pain - not all pain is equal

There are good reasons to move away from a reliance on medicines in chronic pain. Medicines can cause harm through side effects and can cause issues with dependency if used long term.  They may only benefit a quarter of the people who take them and that benefit will be on average a 30% reduction in your pain; in short, a medicines only approach will disappoint.

It is important to understand the differences between short term pain, (often associated with injury or illness) and long term pain. Short term pain can be useful, serving to remind us something is wrong.  Chronic or persistent pain is something quite different and calls for different management.  



Short term pain | Acute pain

Short term pain acts as an alarm system to let us know something is wrong and we need to take steps to try and fix it- this might be taking pain medication, reducing activity to allow healing or getting surgery if needed.  

The pain might stop us from doing the things we would normally do for a period of time such as everyday tasks which might include work, hobbies, spending time with family and friends. We expect it to improve, the body to heal, the pain to go and for everything to go back to “normal”. During short term pain, pain medication may be quite helpful. Friends, family and even strangers may offer help and support, particularly if there is something “obvious” which indicates you are in pain like a plaster cast, bandage or walking aid.

In medical terms acute pain lasts less than 3-6 months, which would be the normal healing time of the body. After 3-6 months with pain, if there has been an injury it should have healed.

Healthcare professionals you might see


Between one fifth and a third of the Scottish population lives with chronic pain.

Long term pain | Chronic or persistent pain

Unlike acute pain, chronic pain is generally not “useful”. Our bodies may be acting like an oversensitive alarm system now and the pain we are feeling may be out of proportion with what is actually happening in our bodies. There are changes to the way our nervous system works and the way we feel pain. Evidence tells us medicines may not be as effective for treating this type of pain.

You may have a condition such as osteoarthritis which is not going to heal. Pain is now becoming long term pain, and it will begin to affect you in additional ways:

  • You may be less active and may have gained weight
  • Your pain medicines might not work so well
  • Your mood might be affected
  • You might not be able to do the daily activities you want to such as hobbies, shopping,  housework and personal care 
  • You may have an impact on your finances if you have had to stop working- this may affect your stress levels
  • Your pain may not be as visible to others- this can impact how people interact with you

This can all be very frustrating or upsetting - particularly if you don’t know what is causing your pain. In other pages you’ll learn more about how pain impacts you.

During this time your healthcare professionals (e.g. GPs, physiotherapists, consultants) will make sure all appropriate tests and investigations have been done to rule out anything concerning or to help diagnose a specific condition that requires particular treatment or surgery.

Healthcare professionals you might see

Chronic pain is an invisible illness

Chronic pain is often described as an “invisible illness”, which can make it difficult to cope with. Chronic pain is a recognised long term condition in the same way as asthma, diabetes or high blood pressure are long term conditions. Between a fifth and a third of the Scottish population live with chronic pain. The doctor will take lots of factors into account when making a chronic pain diagnosis. These may include symptom presentation, underlying conditions and test results.

The focus will be on supporting you to manage your pain in the most effective way - helping you to do the things that are important to you!

This is called “Supported Self-Management” and can be very effective in improving your quality of life and putting you back in control. We will look at supported self management on the a different approach page.



For next steps visit: What's right for you


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