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A structured approach to diagnosing pain

BMJ 2009; 338 doi: (Published 12 May 2009) Cite this as: BMJ 2009;338:b1966
  1. Toby Reynolds, final year medical student
  1. 1St George’s, London

US researchers have developed a bedside tool to assess pain

Long lasting pain causes misery for millions of people, and its treatment can be expensive and time consuming and is often unsuccessful. Low back pain alone is the fifth most common reason for visiting a doctor in the United States, where about a quarter of adults report experiencing such pain for at least a day in the preceding three months.1 In the United Kingdom, the proportion may be even higher.2 Estimates vary, but as many as one in 14 patients with acute back pain go on to experience it chronically. The costs are enormous: The UK National Health Service spends more than £1bn a year on treating back pain, and pain related disability in those patients for whom treatment is not fully effective costs UK employers about half as much again.3

One reason for many patients’ poor response to treatment is that they are never adequately assessed, argue the developers of a new standardised assessment tool, whose study was recently published in …

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