The 20 most painful conditions… from slipped discs to headaches and arthritis

But there are some conditions that cause more pain than others and can be really difficult to live with.

We aren't just talking about a little bit of discomfort here and there, we're talking about crippling pain that leave you wanting to do nothing but lay down and not move.

Some pain is so bad it can make you pass out because your body simply cannot cope with the pressure it puts on your nervous system.

So, what are these conditions? Here's the 20 most painful conditions a person can have, according to the NHS.

1. Cluster headaches

Anyone who's ever experienced a cluster headache will agree.

They are excruciating attacks of pain on one side of the head, often felt around the eye.

They begin quickly, without warning and the pain is very severe – often described as a sharp, burning or piercing sensation.

People often feel restless and agitated during an attack because the pain is so intense, and they may react by rocking, pacing, or banging their head against the wall.

2. Shingles

Shingles sends your nerves into overdrive.

It typically appears as a rash or crop of blisters on one side of the body.

It usually appears around the waistline, but can occur anywhere.

The pain of shingles tends to be burning or tingling, and often affects only one side of your body.

You may feel stabs of pain when someone simply brushes lightly against the affected skin or a breeze wafts over it.

3. Endometriosis

Endometriosis is a chronic condition which occurs when tissue which behaves like the lining of the womb is found outside of the womb – in areas of the body including the ovaries, Fallopian tubes, the abdomen and the bladder.

Symptoms of endometriosis can vary, but the most common include painful or heavy periods, pain during and following sex, bleeding between periods, pain in the lower abdomen and difficulty conceiving.

It can cause cramping at all times of the menstrual cycle, including in the vagina.

Endometriosis can sometimes cause damage to the Fallopian tubes or ovaries, leading to fertility problems.

Other complications can include painful ovarian cysts and adhesions – areas of tissue which can fuse organs together.

Needless to say, it's a very painful condition.

4. Heart attack

If you're having a heart attack you usually get pain in the centre of your chest that feels tight, heavy and squeezing.

The pain can be so bad it causes you to collapse.

It may feel like really bad indigestion to begin with and sometimes spreads into the neck, jaw, back, arms or stomach.

Heart attacks are an emergency, so if you or someone else is having one you need to call 999.

5. Broken bones

Anyone who has even broken a bone can tell you the pain is horrible.

If the break is small, like a little fracture, then it's possible you won't feel any pain at all but usually it really hurts.

The pain will get worse when you try to move it, as you need your bones for movement.

Most people describe a broken bone as a deep aching feeling.

Sometimes they can heal by themselves, but may need to be lined up and fixed into position using a cast.

In extreme cases you may need surgery to pin the bones into place.

6. Frozen shoulder

Not only is this condition extremely rare, but it can last for several years.

A frozen shoulder happens when the joint becomes so tight and stiff that it's almost impossible to move it, like when you go to raise your arm.

The simplest things, like putting on a t-shirt, can be extremely painful.

It's not always clear what causes a frozen shoulder, but it's common after an injury and is more likely in people with diabetes.

7. Slipped disc

One of the most common causes of back pain is a slipped disc.

It's often the result of a twisting or lifting injury.

One of the discs in the spine ruptures and the gel inside, which keeps our spine cushioned, leaks out.

Most people with a slipped disc experience sudden and severe lower back pain.

It's usually eased by lying down, and often made worse by moving your back, coughing or sneezing.

A slipped disc can also cause leg pain.

8. Sickle cell disease

Sickle cell disease is the name for a group of inherited conditions that affect the red blood cells.

The most serious type is called sickle cell anaemia.

A sudden episode of pain, known as a pain crisis, is one of the most common and distressing symptoms of sickle cell disease.

The pain, which usually occurs in the bones and joints, can vary from mild to severe and last for up to seven days.

Some people may have an episode every few weeks, while others may have fewer than one a year.

9. Arthritis

Arthritis is a common condition that causes pain and inflammation in a joint.

It affects around 10 million people in the UK alone.

While it is more common in older people it can affect anyone at any age – including children.

The two most common types are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

People with arthritis endure constant and often disabling joint pain, usually in the hips, knees, wrists or fingers.

The pain can come on suddenly or over time, and is often linked with muscle aches and stiffness in the joints.

10. Migraine

A migraine is more than just a headache, it's an intense pain on the side of the head that can cause throbbing and gets worse when you move.

In some cases the pain can be on both sides of your head and spreads down your neck and face.

The pain can be so intense it causes vomiting, extreme sensitivity to light and sound.

Sometimes, in cases of severe migraines, the best thing to do is find a dark, quiet place to lie down until the pain passes.

11. Kidney stones

Kidney stones are small calcification stones that form in your kidneys when waste products build up.

They're quite common, with around three in 20 men and up to two in 20 women developing them at some stage of their lives.

But passing one out can be extremely painful.

Passing a kidney stone can produce a sudden, sharp, cramping pain in your lower back or the side of your abdomen, or occasionally in your groin.

The pain may last for minutes or hours, with pain-free intervals in between.

It often begins in the middle of the night and can be so severe that those who experience it may feel the need to go to A&E.

Most kidney stones are small enough to pass out in your urine, and the pain disappears once the stone has been passed.

12. Appendicitis

Appendicitis occurs when your appendix becomes inflamed and swollen.

It's not known what causes it, but appendicitis can cause it to burst which is a medical emergency.

The appendix is a finger-like pouch attached to the gut wall.

Appendicitis is most common in children, who typically complain of pain in the middle of their tummy that comes and goes.

The pain then shifts to the lower-right side of the tummy and gets worse.

13. Trigeminal neuralgia

This is one you might not have heard of – or be able to say.

Trigeminal neuralgia, also known as Fothergill's disease, causes severe bouts of pain on one side of the face.

There is no pattern to the pain, it comes and goes in random attacks.

Some describe it as an electric shock feeling, others describe it as burning or stabbing.

14. Sciatica

Sciatica is the name given to an aching pain running down the leg.

It's caused when the sciatic nerve – the longest nerve in the body, which stretches from your back to your feet – has been pinched or irritated by damage to the back.

Sciatica is different to general back pain.

The pain of sciatica hardly affects your back at all – instead, it radiates out from your lower back, down the buttocks and into one or both of the legs, right down to the calf.

15. Gout

Gout is where swelling and severe pain develops in a joint, often the base of the big toe, to the point where moving or even touching the toe can be agony.

It's one of the most painful forms of arthritis.

During an attack of gout, the joint starts to ache, before swelling up and becoming red, hot and extremely painful.

Attacks can last between 1 and 10 days.

16. Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is a long-term condition which causes pain all over the body.

As well as chronic pain, fibromyalgia can cause increased sensitivity to pain, fatigue and muscle stiffness.

Sufferers can also have difficulty sleeping, as well as memory loss, concentration problems, headaches and irritable bowel syndrome.

The exact cause of fibromyalgia is unknown, but researchers believe it may be related to chemicals in the brain and could be affected by genes inherited from your parents.

Often, the condition is triggered by a stressful physical or emotional event, like the death of a loved one, the breakdown of a relationship or an operation or physical injury.

Lady Gaga suffers from the condition and in August 2018, Kirsty Young revealed she was taking a break from her Radio 4 show Desert Island Discs for a "number of months" as she battles the condition.

17. Pain after surgery

It goes without saying that when you've had surgery the pain you suffer afterwards can be excruciating – after all, someone has just cut into your body.

The intensity of the pain will depend on the surgery you've had as well.

But too much pain after surgery is not a good thing, and you should never feel you have to "tough it out".

There are lots of effective painkillers on offer to keep your pain after surgery under control.

In addition to making you more comfortable, well-controlled pain will help you get better faster and prevent long-term problems.

18. Stomach ulcers

A stomach ulcer is a hole that forms in the lining of the stomach.

It can cause an intense burning pain in the abdomen, usually between meals when your stomach acid irritates it more.

An untreated ulcer can burn through the stomach wall, letting digestive juices and food leak into the abdominal cavity, causing disabling pain.

This is called a perforated ulcer and is a medical emergency that usually needs to be operated on immediately.

19. Acute pancreatitis

Acute pancreatitis is when you pancreas swells.

The most common symptom is is severe abdominal pain that appears suddenly.

It often gets steadily worse and can travel to your back and left shoulder blade.

Eating or drinking, especially fatty foods, may also make you feel worse very quickly.

Leaning forward or curling into a ball may help to relieve the pain, but lying flat on your back often increases it.

20. Complex regional pain syndrome

You might nit have heard of this before, but basically it causes long-lasting pain that appears shortly after an injury like a burn or cut.

The burning pain of CRPS never goes away and is intense, often completely disproportionate to the original injury.

The pain usually stays in the same area as the original injury, but can sometimes spread.

Even the slightest touch can can provoke intense pain.


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