Progress in the understanding of chronic pain with neuropathic features has been hindered by a lack of epidemiologic research in the general population. The Leeds Assessment of Neuropathic Symptoms and Signs score (S-LANSS) was recently validated for use in postal surveys, making the identification of pain of predominantly neuropathic origin possible. Six family practices in 3 UK cities (Aberdeen, Leeds, and London) generated a total random sample of 6,000 adults. The mailed questionnaire included demographic items, chronic pain identification, and intensity questions, the S-LANSS, the Level of Expressed Needs questionnaire, and the Neuropathic Pain Scale. With a corrected response rate of 52%, the prevalence of any chronic pain was 48% and the prevalence of pain of predominantly neuropathic origin was 8%. Respondents with this chronic neuropathic pain were significantly more likely to be female, slightly older, no longer married, living in council rented accommodation, unable to work, have no educational qualifications, and be smokers than all other respondents. Multiple logistic regression modeling found that pain of predominantly neuropathic origin was independently associated with older age, gender, employment (being unable to work), and lower educational attainment. Respondents with this pain type also reported significantly greater pain intensity, higher scores on the NPS, higher levels of expressed need, and longer duration of pain. This is the first estimate of the prevalence and distribution of pain of predominantly neuropathic origin in the general population, using a previously validated and reliable data collection instrument.
Perspective: Chronic pain with neuropathic features appears to be more common in the general population than previously suggested. This type of pain is more severe than other chronic pain but distributed similarly throughout sociodemographic groups.