The World Health Organisation is the overriding authority for the health of the general population within the United Nations. Its primary roles are to provide guidance and leadership on global health matters; steer the research agenda; set general health standards; provide technical support to countries as and when required; and to monitor and assess health trends. It is also responsible for producing the International Classification of Diseases (ICD).

The ICD is used to classify different types of diseases and health problems suffered by the population at large. It is based on extensive medical and other records. The current classification is ICD-10 which was endorsed by the 43rd World Health Assembly in May 1990 and was adopted by WHO Member States in 1994. The updated 11th version of the classification is in hand and is likely to be published shortly.

The International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP) was founded in 1973 and is the leading organisation for professionals involved in the research, diagnosis, and the treatment of pain. It describes pain as “an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage or described in terms of such damage.”

Research at the University of Cambridge has shown that the HCN2 gene produces a protein which regulates chronic pain.

Finally, and not before time, the legal system has also woken up to the fact that chronic pain is a debilitating condition with a significant impact upon daily life. There are now a number of leading cases where the courts have at last recognised the severe impact that chronic pain – in all of its various guises – can have upon the suffers life. It remains, however, a very specialised area of medicine and law where experience and understanding are vital ingredients.
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