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What Is Pain & How Is It Linked To Mental Health

What is Pain?

Pain changes people.  The International Association for the Study of Pain defines pain as “an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage, or described in terms of such damage” (i) .

Pain generally falls into one of two broad categories – acute pain and chronic pain.

Acute pain usually occurs with trauma and gradually resolves when there is no longer an underlying cause for the pain.

Chronic pain is, by definition, pain that persists for more than 3 months.  Chronic pain can continue even after the injury that has caused it has gone away.

There is a third category of pain known as neuropathic pain.  Neuropathic pain is primarily caused by injuries to the nerves themselves.  Neuropathic pain does not start abruptly or settle quickly.  It is a chronic condition which leads to persistent pain symptoms.

The Cost of Pain

Pain is the most common reason that people seek medical help, yet it remains one of the most misunderstood areas of healthcare.  1 in 5 Australians lives with chronic pain.  This increases to 1 in 3 people over the age of 65 (ii).

The total economic cost of chronic pain in 2007 was estimated at $34 billion (iii).  Arthritis and back problems, both associated with chronic pain are the most common causes for people of working age to drop out of the workforce, accounting for 40% of forced retirements (iv).

Chronic Pain and Whiplash

Whiplash is an injury to the cervical spine.  Whiplash commonly occurs as a result of a car accident.  Not only is whiplash is one of the most common types of injuries in Australia, it is also one of the most common causes of chronic neck pain.  It is estimated that as many as 25% of people with whiplash injuries will experience chronic neck pain as a result of the injury.

Link between Chronic Pain and Mental Health

There is a powerful link between pain and depression.  1 in 5 adults who suffer from chronic pain also suffer from depression or other mood disorders (v).  Physical health problems have been implicated in 21% of suicides in Australia.

Pain and Compensation

It is well known that stress worsens pain.  Fighting for compensation is chronically stressful, and chronic stress can cause or contribute to chronic pain.  The best idea to reduce the stress involved in dealing with the various compensation schemes is to find a specialist compensation lawyer to act on your behalf, so that you can concentrate on your health.  Most compensation schemes can help fund your treatment to help you to regain maximum medical health.

GC Law is a specialised injury and compensation law firm that can help you regain your health and guide you through the compensation schemes in Queensland.


ii   Blyth FM et al (2001) “Chronic pain in Australia: a prevalence study” Pain, 89:127-1342.
iii  MBF Foundation (2007) The high price of pain: the economic impact of persistent pain in Australia – Pain Management Research Institute, University of Sydney.
iv  Schofield el al. (2012) Quantifying the Productivity impacts of poor health and health interventions
Health economics, University Sydney Oct 2012.
v  Australian Bureau of Statistics (2011) 4841.0 Facts at your fingertips: Health: Characteristics of bodily pain in Australia.

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