From ladder to platform: a new concept for pain management

J Prim Health Care. 2012 Sep 1;4(3):254-8.


Background: Pain remains one of the top five reasons for consultations in general practice, presenting either alone or as comorbidity. The World Health Organization (WHO) analgesic ladder proposed in 1986 has been the cornerstone of pain management, but is often inadequate in daily practice, especially when dealing with the diverse nature and etiology of various pain conditions. There is a need for a better concept which is universally applicable that acknowledges the value of, and need for, other domains of treatment for pain.

Objective: This article reviews the original ideas of the WHO analgesic ladder and proposes its extension to a platform model in the context of pain management.

Discussion: Pain affects both the physical and psychological wellbeing of patients and should not be treated with pharmacotherapy alone. The model of WHO analgesic ladder provides guidelines for choosing the analgesic agents, but has its limitations. Incorporating the latest paradigm of neuromatrix theory, both acute and chronic pain should be best managed with a broader perspective incorporating multimodal non-pharmacological and supportive treatments, illustrated by the concept of interacting domains on a broad platform as presented in this article. Different levels of pain severity and chronicity necessitate different analgesic platforms of management, and the clinician should move up or down the appropriate platform to explore the various treatment options as per the status and needs of the patient.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics / administration & dosage
  • Analgesics / therapeutic use
  • General Practice / methods
  • Humans
  • Pain / drug therapy
  • Pain Management / methods*
  • Pain Measurement
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • World Health Organization


  • Analgesics