Review Article

Clinical Drug Investigation

, Volume 32, Issue 1, pp 35-44

The Management of Chronic Pain in Important Patient Subgroups

  • Paolo CherubinoAffiliated withDepartment of Orthopaedics and Traumatology, University of Insubria, Ospedale di Circolo-Fondazione Macchi Email author 
  • , Piercarlo Sarzi-PuttiniAffiliated withRheumatology Unit, L. Sacco University Hospital
  • , Stefano Maria ZuccaroAffiliated withDepartment of Geriatrics, Ospedale Israelitico
  • , Roberto LabiancaAffiliated withDepartment of Oncology and Haematology, Ospedali Riuniti

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Abstract

Chronic pain is a major healthcare issue in Europe and globally, and inadequate or undertreated pain significantly reduces the ability of many patients to participate in ordinary daily activities, adversely affects their employment status and contributes to a substantial rate of depression and anxiety in patients with chronic pain. There is a broad distinction of chronic pain into chronic non-cancer pain and chronic cancer pain, and important subgroups of these include patients with rheumatic and/or orthopaedic diseases, pain syndromes caused by cancer itself and caused by cancer treatment. Despite comprising the majority of non-cancer pain in Europe, chronic non-cancer pain associated with rheumatic diseases and/or orthopaedic conditions is often inadequately managed. Although paracetamol and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) play a continuing role in the treatment of chronic rheumatic diseases, accumulating evidence of potential toxicity with both traditional non-selective NSAIDs and selective cyclooxygenase 2 inhibitors has prompted a reassessment of their use. This has particular resonance for the elderly, who are more likely to have significant pain issues than younger patients and are at high risk of NSAID-related adverse events. The use of mild opioids, such as codeine and tramadol, and strong opioids, such as morphine, hydromorphone and oxycodone, may be appropriate where paracetamol and other non-opioid analgesics are ineffective in chronic non-cancer pain. Cancer pain, either related to the underlying disease or caused by cancer treatment, is also a common cause of chronic pain in the elderly. An understanding of individual needs is essential in providing adequate pain relief, which is a central goal of care in all patients with chronic pain