Skip to Main Content Skip to Site Map Skip to Accessibility Statement

Long-term pain

Help with long-term pain

Please note this webpage does not apply to pain caused by cancer or to patients receiving palliative care.

It’s been estimated that around one in five of us in Northern Ireland live with long-term pain. This type of pain is often called ‘chronic’ pain.

Medicines we use to help us when we have pain for a short time after we’ve been injured (‘acute’ pain) may not work as well for chronic pain. These medicines may only help lower chronic pain levels by about 30%, no matter the dose. This is due to changes in how our bodies (specifically, our nervous system) handle sensations.

This short video explains the differences between acute and chronic pain and how this changes how we manage chronic pain.

It’s not all bad news, however: although there is often no cure for chronic pain, there are things we can do ourselves to help us manage our pain and lead a better quality of life.

The Pain Toolkit have produced a short video which outlines one of the first steps we can take – Acceptance (Video – Pain Tools | The Pain Toolkit)

There are many other techniques to explore, and this is sometimes called ‘pain self-management’, where we as patients join in decision-making about our treatment with our healthcare professionals, and actively control symptoms ourselves where possible.

This may help us keep our bodies working in the best way they can and improve our independence. The good news is that when we learn self-management skills, they can be used to help us to cope with other long-term conditions, now and in the future.

Despite this, many people may not know about the information and support that’s available to help us with self-management of pain. For example:

Pain support programmes

These courses are held at different times throughout the year and move around different venues in NI, so if you don’t find one that suits you today, there may be another coming shortly that will suit you.

The courses are suitable for all types of (non-cancer) pain and are a great way to learn how to manage your pain, set goals, learn new skills, get a better night’s sleep and regain control of your life.

Programmes may be held online or face to face in local groups. Some support may also be available over the phone (check with the course provider). These are all free and you don’t need a referral from your doctor – you can either book online or ring up to chat through your options.

The following are examples of local programmes supporting people living with chronic pain:

Better Days Pain Support Programmes

Versus Arthritis

NI Versus Arthritis provides a range of self-management courses and services for adults living with long term pain and musculoskeletal problems to help people to better manage the impact of their long-term condition(s). You don’t have to have arthritis to get support – it is open to anyone with chronic pain.

You can refer yourself or be referred by your healthcare professional.

For details –

Resources for you