New research reveals nerve pain affects the productivity and wellbeing of Australians

New research¹ shows six out of ten (59%) Australians who report living with neuropathic (nerve) pain are missing work at least once a week due to their nerve pain. Intriguingly, this is higher than those living with other chronic pain conditions such as osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis (where 43% miss work at least once a week).

Pain Medicine Specialist Dr Nathan Taylor, of Sydney’s North Shore Private Hospital, explains how nerve pain is different to other forms of pain:

“Nerve pain affects many Australians. It is often described as being more severe than other pain and lasts longer than would be expected. Nerve pain feels different and is sometimes described as burning, stabbing, pins and needles, or the feeling of electric shocks. It can be associated with numbness or increased skin sensitivity.”

Celebrity chef Ben O’Donoghue shares his story of living with nerve pain as he becomes the ambassador of a new health awareness campaign called Share Your Pain, which launches today to coincide with the beginning of the Global Year Against Neuropathic Pain².

“Share Your Pain aims to increase understanding that nerve pain feels different,” Ben said.

“We want to encourage people who are putting up with pain that won’t go away to speak to their doctor today, to seek options to help manage their pain. Nerve pain should be treated as early as possible before it develops into chronic pain.”

“My nerve pain started back in 1998 when I was working as a chef in England. I thought the pain was muscular, but after six months of intense pain I realised it must be something else. I had severe shooting pains down my leg. It felt like I was being stabbed with a knitting needle in my buttocks. I was pretty much house-bound and getting really depressed. It started to affect my relationships and I couldn’t work for four months,” Ben explained.

Ben is not alone. Nerve pain not only impacts on work, but can also cause relationship difficulties, with almost half of those who report living with nerve pain saying it causes stress in their relationship (45%) and over a third (37%) saying sexual activity is impossible due to their pain.

“I was diagnosed with sciatica* when I was just 27 years old. I was devastated. It had been suggested to me that I might not be able to cook again. I’d spent 10 years of my life cooking and I saw the rest of my life being a restaurateur so that was pretty scary,” said Ben.
Dr Nathan Taylor recommends anyone living with pain to seek advice from a healthcare professional, in order to get a diagnosis and help with managing their pain.

“If you have been suffering with pain that just isn’t settling, it may be nerve pain. There are a number of different management strategies that can empower you to take control and get back to normal life. It is worth talking to your doctor or seeing a pain medicine specialist to discuss these options,” he said.

Talk to your doctor and visit Complete the online questionnaire intended to help you explain your pain and take a printout to discuss with your doctor. Your doctor and healthcare team will help you find a diagnosis and implement the most appropriate pain management strategy for you.

Key research findings ¹

  • Neuropathic pain is having a significant impact on peoples’ work life, with 59% missing work at least once per week compared with 43 % (p=0.007) of people who live with other chronic pain conditions (such as osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis).
  • 57% of respondents who report living with neuropathic pain find it difficult to engage in family activities due to their pain compared to 40% (p=0.006) of people who live with other pain conditions (such as osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis).
  • 51% of patients who report a diagnosis of neuropathic pain say they avoid talking about their pain as they feel people don’t understand what they are going through.
  • 30% of people who report living with neuropathic pain admit the reason they avoid talking about their pain is because they don’t want to burden others.
  • 86% of patients who report a diagnosis of neuropathic pain take medication on a daily basis to help manage their pain.
  • 41% of respondents who report living with neuropathic pain follow a pain management plan, compared with 25% of people who live with other pain conditions (such as osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis).
  • 43% of patients who report a diagnosis of neuropathic pain have lived with nerve pain symptoms for more than 10 years.
    A full copy of the results is available on request. Please refer to the contact details at the top of this media release.

About nerve pain

  • Neuropathic (nerve) pain is pain that is caused by damage or disease that affects the nervous system of the body.
  • Nerve pain can be caused by a number of different illnesses or injuries such as following a case of shingles; it can affect some people with diabetes (diabetic peripheral neuropathy), or start after an injury or surgery.

About Ben O’Donoghue

Ben O’Donoghue is a celebrity chef, television presenter, author, and brand ambassador. Ben shares his love of cooking, local produce and cooking passion with television viewers through his cooking shows, cookbooks and his licensed café – Billykart Kitchen – in Brisbane. Ben started his career in several top Australian restaurants before moving to London. For four years he worked at the famous River Café, before joining Jamie Oliver at the exclusive Monte’s Club as Executive Chef. Ben’s television credits include Surfing the Menu, which he co-hosted with Curtis Stone and UK shows ‘The Best’ with Paul Merret and Sylvana Franco (on BBC2) and three series of ‘The Best in Australia’ for the Lifestyle Channel.

1. Kantar Health, 2014. Assessing patient’s perception of their neuropathic (nerve) pain. This study employed an online quantitative approach and took approximately 15 minutes on average to complete; data was collected from July to August 2014. The survey link was embedded on Chronic Pain Australia’s website and disseminated via their monthly newsletter. Since unique survey links were not used, IP address screening was employed to ensure each respondent could only complete the survey once. Respondents were screened to ensure they personally experience chronic pain and that their average daily pain is rated as 4+ out of 10 on a numerical rating scale from 0 (no pain) to 10 (severe pain). Once data collection via Chronic Pain Australia’s database was exhausted, respondents were recruited from consumer panel provided by ekas market research services.

2. The Global Year Against Neuropathic Pain (20 Oct 2014 – 31 Dec 2015) is an initiative of the International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP), the Australian Pain Society, the New Zealand Pain Society, the Faculty of the Pain Medicine, the Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists and Pain Australia


* A type of nerve pain due to damaged sciatic nerve

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