Chronic Pain

The below information is purely for educational purposes and does not constitute medical advice. This content should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice.

Chronic pain is a type of pain that lasts longer than three months and feels like it’s not getting any better. There are many conditions that can cause chronic pain, and sometimes the cause is unknown. The management of your chronic pain can depend on your specific condition and other needs.

In this guide we go through all of your options for managing chronic pain.

Chronic Pain Definition

Chronic pain is any pain the lasts longer than 3 months. Pain can be an unpleasant physical or emotional experience caused by actual or possible damage to our bodies.

An example of chronic pain is long-lasting knee pain. You might need to take medicines or practise daily exercises to manage the knee pain.

For some people there is an obvious ongoing cause of the pain. For others the cause of the pain has gone, or there was no obvious cause to start with. Every person’s pain is as unique as they are and should be managed individually.

What Causes Chronic Pain?

What are the common causes of chronic pain?

There are many common causes of chronic pain. These can include problems with the muscles, bones and joints, such as arthritis and back pain. Other causes include injury to nerves, cancer, or surgery.

Whether there is an underlying cause for your chronic pain or not, there are many options to improve what you can do and how you feel.

Chronic Pain Symptoms

What are the common symptoms of chronic pain?

Common symptoms of chronic pain include:

  • Dull throbbing in the area of pain
  • A sudden sharp pain once every so often
  • Tingling or numbness in the area
  • Finding it difficult to move around due to the pain
  • Feeling unable to sleep well because of the pain
  • The pain getting worse when you make certain movements
  • Lingering pain that you need medication for to carry on with your day

Your experience of chronic pain is unique to you. Pain can be constant, or it comes and goes. You might find there are specific triggers that can increase how much pain you feel. This sudden increase in pain is known as a flare-up.

Some people with chronic pain have what we call neuropathic symptoms. These are unusual feelings that may be due to nerve damage. They are often described as a burning, tingling or numb feeling in the area where they get pain.

How to cope with chronic pain​

Medications used for chronic pain

Medications that are used for chronic pain include those you can buy yourself without a prescription. These are called over the counter (OTC) medications which you get from a pharmacy, and include:

  • Paracetamol
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs), such as aspirin, ibuprofen or naproxen
  • Co-codamol, which contains codeine and paracetamol
  • Codeine with ibuprofen

Some medications need to be prescribed by a doctor and include:

  • Different NSAIDs, such as diclofenac
  • Amitriptyline
  • Pregabalin
  • Gabapentin
  • Opioid medicines, such as codeine, dihydrocodeine, tramadol, morphine, buprenorphine, fentanyl or oxycodone
  • Lidocaine patches
  • Capsaicin
  • Medical cannabis, from a doctor that is a specialist prescriber

In pain clinics or hospitals, doctors might suggest an injection to areas that are causing chronic pain. These injections may contain corticosteroid medicines to reduce swelling and numb pain. They can relieve chronic pain for a long time. In some cases, pain can be relieved for a few months or years.

Chronic Pain Conditions

Common conditions that cause chronic pain

Your chronic pain might be from another source or have no obvious condition causing it.

It’s worth seeing a medical expert, such as a doctor that specialises in chronic pain, to understand your needs and help you manage your chronic pain. They can also try to determine what the cause of the chronic pain could be and offer effective ways to treat it.

Common conditions that cause chronic pain include bone, muscle and joint issues, such as:

Problems with the brain or nerves can cause chronic pain, including:

  • Headaches
  • Nerve damage

Pain from internal organs that can cause chronic pain include:

How is Chronic Pain Diagnosed?

Chronic pain is usually diagnosed by taking a thorough history and examination to identify the type of pain, severity, functional impact and context.

Patients with musculoskeletal pain may benefit from X-Rays of the affected joint(s).

In neuropathic pain, nerve conduction studies and electromyography are frequently used to identify which nerves are affected.

A clinician may make recommendations for other investigations depending on the underlying cause of the pain.

Chronic Pain Treatment

NICE chronic pain guidelines

NICE is the National Institute for Health Care and Excellence. The NICE chronic pain guidelines help doctors and other healthcare professionals in the UK decide how to treat chronic pain.

In the NICE chronic pain guidelines, they state that the team that treats you should:

  • Focus on treating you as a whole, rather than just your condition
  • Think about other possible causes of your pain
  • Ask how your pain affects you
  • Ask about activities that affect your pain
  • Provide you with advice and information
  • Develop a care and support plan, including how to manage flare-ups of pain

There are specific NICE chronic pain guidelines for conditions like:

For chronic primary pain, NICE recommends these chronic pain treatments:

  • Exercise and general daily physical activity
  • Psychological therapy, such as acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), or cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)
  • Acupuncture
  • Medication, starting with antidepressants

Ways to relieve chronic pain

Here are some helpful ways to relieve chronic pain without medication:

  • Staying active – find what you can manage to do each day, and work your way up to 30 minutes per day
  • Reducing stress – this can include mindfulness meditation, thinking of ways to relax or considering seeing a professional therapist
  • Social activities – these can include meeting with other people who can share how they manage their chronic pain
  • Seeing a physiotherapist if the chronic pain is due to bone, muscle or joint problems
  • Speaking to a doctor that specialises in chronic pain treatment

You may need to try more than one way to relieve chronic pain, and some ways will work better for you than othersWatch this documentary online to see how others deal with living with chronic pain.

Chronic Pain and Medicinal Cannabis

Research into the effect of medicinal cannabis on chronic pain is limited. However, following the legalisation of cannabis for medical purposes in 2018, there has been a rise in people looking towards medical cannabis. When first-line therapies have not proved effective at reducing symptoms, medical cannabis may be considered an option for chronic pain.

For further information and to find out more about medical cannabis, click here to discover more about our multi-award-winning Sapphire Access Scheme. Alternatively, complete an eligibility assessment now. Once complete, one of our clinicians will review your application and advise whether you are eligible for progression to an appointment.


Chronic Pain FAQs

Arrange an Appointment

If you are a patient or carer seeking an appointment to discuss treatment with medical cannabis, you can complete this form and we can assist you with this.

Eligible patients can provide us with their healthcare records or we can obtain these through your GP. This is to confirm that a patient’s condition has been fully assessed and all other treatment options have been attempted. We will ensure that the primary care provider receives all treatment communication to maintain the highest level of clinical governance.

We also accept referrals from healthcare professionals.

To refer a patient to us, please click here to fill and securely submit a referral form.


Sapphire Access Scheme


£ 50


£ 50


£ 50

Average Cost of Treatment

To help patients understand the likely cost of treatment, we have outlined the average cost to a patient with chronic pain. Cost of medication varies on an individual patient bases.


Inclusive Of Appointments And Medicine


Inclusive Of Appointments And Medicine
No repeat prescription fee

Average cost to a patient with chronic pain using dried cannabis flower


Inclusive Of Appointments And Medicine


Inclusive Of Appointments And Medicine
No repeat prescription fee
For more details including some exceptions, see full price list: