Information & Resources

Find information and resources to help manage your pain.

Get Help & Support

Find the tools you need to
help you manage your pain.

Get Involved

Help make a real difference to people
in the UK living with chronic pain.

About Us

Find out about Pain Concern and how
we can help you.

New campaign targets orofacial pain

In Octo­ber the new Glob­al Year Against Pain (GYAP) – the Inter­na­tion­al Asso­ci­a­tion for the Study of Pain’s annu­al year­long cam­paign – begins. This year it cen­tres on oro­fa­cial pain, which is phys­i­cal dis­com­fort asso­ci­at­ed with the mouth and face.

Each year IASP’s cam­paign attempts to raise aware­ness of pain as a con­di­tion in its own right and to edu­cate health care pro­fes­sion­als, gov­ern­ment lead­ers and the pub­lic about chron­ic pain con­di­tions with the aim of improv­ing the care avail­able to patients. The asso­ci­a­tion chose to high­light chron­ic pain due to its severe effect on many peo­ple world­wide and because, despite the fact that many cost-effec­tive pain relief meth­ods are fea­si­ble, gov­ern­ments often neglect this area of health­care. IASP points out that whilst few peo­ple die of pain, mil­lions live and die in the midst of it, thus ren­der­ing it an impor­tant issue.

As with their pre­vi­ous GYAP cam­paigns, which have tar­get­ed headaches, vis­cer­al pain and can­cer pain among many oth­er types of chron­ic pain, IASP aims to raise inter­na­tion­al aware­ness and improve treat­ment of oro­fa­cial pain. Health­care pro­fes­sion­als and experts on oro­fa­cial pain have cre­at­ed infor­ma­tion pam­phlets on the sub­ject of oro­fa­cial pain for IASP and oth­er relat­ed organ­i­sa­tions. Some of these mate­ri­als are aimed at doc­tors and den­tists, while oth­ers are intend­ed to help patients under­stand their con­di­tion. Through­out the year, IASP and its 90 nation­al chap­ters will also spon­sor var­i­ous activ­i­ties, such as meet­ings, media inter­views and pub­li­ca­tions, to pro­mote edu­ca­tion on issues sur­round­ing oro­fa­cial pain.

Falling into the gap

IASP has cho­sen oro­fa­cial pain as its focal point for this year’s cam­paign because many health pro­fes­sion­als are not suf­fi­cient­ly trained to recog­nise and treat this chron­ic pain prob­lem. This stems from the fact that oro­fa­cial pain con­di­tions often fall into the gap between den­tal and med­ical exper­tise, which means that typ­i­cal­ly nei­ther doc­tors nor den­tists are very famil­iar with the problem.

Pro­fes­sor Joan­na Zakrzews­ka, who as Hon­orary Pro­fes­sor of Restora­tive Den­tal Sci­ences at UCL leads research into oro­fa­cial pain, explains that many doc­tors get no train­ing in this area, whilst den­tists are poor­ly taught about the need for a more holis­tic approach to facial pain. As a result oro­fa­cial pain often goes unde­tect­ed for a long time, being mis­tak­en for tooth ache or oth­er den­tal prob­lems, and symp­toms can become very severe before it is diag­nosed. IASP hope that their cam­paign will raise aware­ness in doc­tors, den­tists and the pub­lic alike, so that oro­fa­cial pain can be diag­nosed and treat­ed more quickly.

About oro­fa­cial pain

Oro­fa­cial pain includes such con­di­tions as trigem­i­nal neu­ral­gia, tem­poro­mandibu­lar dis­or­ders (affect­ing the mus­cles and joints of the jaw), burn­ing mouth syn­drome, per­sis­tent idio­path­ic facial pain and trigem­i­nal neu­ro­path­ic pain. These con­di­tions are caused by dis­eases or dis­or­der of region­al struc­tures, by dys­func­tion of the ner­vous sys­tem, or through refer­ral from dis­tant sources in their caus­es. The dis­or­ders vary in their symp­toms and treat­ment, but all can prove chal­leng­ing to diag­nose. One diag­nos­tic approach cat­e­go­rizes oro­fa­cial pain into four groups based on the under­ly­ing pain mechanisms—namely, mus­cu­loskele­tal, neu­ro­path­ic, neu­rovas­cu­lar, and psy­chogenic pain. Oro­fa­cial pain is com­mon, with around a quar­ter of the pop­u­la­tion of the UK affect­ed by one of its man­i­fes­ta­tions. It is more com­mon in women than men.

Oro­fa­cial pain con­di­tions can cause extreme dis­com­fort; trigem­i­nal neu­ral­gia has been described as one of the most excru­ci­at­ing pains known to man. Patients have likened the sen­sa­tion to light­en­ing shoot­ing through their face or an elec­tric shock that is trig­gered by the light­est touch. Fur­ther­more, there are social and psy­cho­log­i­cal issues asso­ci­at­ed with oro­fa­cial pain, with over 70% of peo­ple affect­ed expe­ri­enc­ing psy­cho­log­i­cal dis­tress and many feel­ing social­ly iso­lat­ed. Loss of sleep and pain else­where in the body are also linked to oro­fa­cial pain.

With the Glob­al Year Against Oro­fa­cial Pain IASP is shin­ing a pow­er­ful spot­light on the top­ic in order to remove the cur­rent bar­ri­ers to fast and effec­tive treatment.