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Pictures That Tell A Thousand Painful Words

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Press Release form LLoyds Pharmacy

Over half of UK suffers from pain every week; poll finds self-medicating may be putting Nation’s health at risk.

Almost 500 people have taken part in an academic study – the first of its kind – to explore what drawing a picture can tell us about the pain that they are suffering. The research, conducted by the University of Chichester for Lloydspharmacy, was undertaken to find out if there is common ground among people when it comes to the articulation of pain.

The drawings study, which included different types of pain sufferers, found that people were equally likely to depict their pain literally as abstractly. Of those using abstract imagery, many included stormy weather and ‘evil’ characters, such as the devil or an executioner. Not surprisingly, the majority of participants used the colour red to express raw pain.  When it came to gender differences, there was not much in it, however women were more likely to use abstract drawings than men - perhaps reflecting their general willingness to express emotion to a greater extent than men.

 Top 10 Image 1-0001Dr Esther Burkitt, Senior Psychologist at the University of Chichester, carried out the study: “To date there have been few adult studies to examine the drawn representation of negative experiences such as pain, so this research provides interesting insight into the ways that people express their pain. Even though I found shared themes in people’s expressions of pain through drawing, what came across most strongly is that pain is a very individual thing.”

Alongside the drawings study, over 2000 UK adults were surveyed about their experiences of pain. The poll found that over half of people across the UK (56%) suffer with pain at least once a week; worryingly, more than one in four (28%) said they suffer from severe pain every single day. When asked about the type of pain they suffer from, 60% of people confirmed that they regularly suffer from neck and back pain, while nearly half (46%) admitted to suffering from migraines and the same number from joint pain.

Top 10 Image 2-0002The survey also found that over half of people (51%) find it hard to describe their pain to others. Difficulty in articulating pain may result in people mismanaging their pain – for example, taking incorrect or too much medicine. This is borne out by the poll, which showed that many pain sufferers do not know the best way to treat their pain, with almost half (45%) admitting that they always use the same painkillers, no matter what type of pain they are in.  There was also a disturbingly relaxed approach to painkillers overall, with 1 in 4 people (24%) saying they have taken more painkillers than was advised on the packet or by a healthcare professional. Similarly, over a third (34%) admitted to having taken painkillers while on other medication without first seeking professional advice.

Top 10 Image 8-0008Clare Kerr, Lloydspharmacy’s pain expert, said: “Over half of British adults suffering from pain every week is pretty alarming. Even worse our poll found that some people are taking too many painkillers and mixing them with other medicines, which can potentially be very dangerous. Pain really impacts on people’s quality of life and day-to-day functioning, and feeling like no-one understands your pain can be a real barrier to managing it. This research clearly shows that one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to pain. We don’t want people to suffer in silence and that’s why we’ve launched a pain service that focuses on individual needs – whether that’s the right medicine or alternative pain relief methods.”

Top 10 Image 5-0005Lloydspharmacy’s new pain service is free to everyone and based on a simple premise – that listening to people is the first step in helping them to understand, manage and treat their pain.  Pharmacy staff have the expertise, knowledge and training to help customers choose the right solution for them.  As well as advice on medicines, staff can also discuss alternative options, such as TENs machines.  They are also on hand to give tips on how to deal with pain – from taking regular exercise, to making the time to relax.  All customers using the pain service will be given a personalised advice card to take home with them.

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For further information, please contact 020 7478 7833 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Notes to editors:

Research was carried out by Opinion Matters between the 14 September and 28 September 2011. Survey was carried out with 2120 UK adults aged 16+.

Academic (drawings) research was carried by Dr Esther Burkitt, Senior Psychologist at the University of Chichester. A full summary of the report can be provided upon request.

About Lloydspharmacy:

Lloydspharmacy has over 1650 pharmacies across the UK.  These are based predominantly in community and health centre locations.  The company employs over 17,000 staff and dispenses over 151 million prescription items annually. For more information, visit www.lloydspharmacy.com

For more information on the new pain service visit: Lloydspharmacy pain service

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