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New nursing research project will improve knowledge on chronic pain

Chronic pain is part of daily life for more than one quarter of Denmark’s population. At the same time, they suffer the consequences of very long waiting times for treatment. A new research project aims to change this.

More than 25% of the population has chronic pain and faces long waiting times of up to 128 weeks for specialist treatment in Denmark’s public healthcare system. This includes having to wait 2–3 months for an initial consultation with a doctor. In addition, Denmark tops the world in the consumption of painkillers such as morphine and similar drugs known as opioids even though their benefits are debated and using them may have side-effects, including addiction.

These are serious statistics and the number of patients is even increasing, which emphasises the need for action on treating patients with chronic pain and in preventing and supporting patients in self-managing their pain. A new research project from Rigshospitalet will focus on these issues.

The Novo Nordisk Foundation has awarded Geana Kurita, Professor from the Department of Anaesthesiology, Pain and Respiratory Support, Neuroscience Centre at Rigshospitalet, Copenhagen, almost DKK 7.5 million over 5 years under the Nursing Research Programme. Geana Kurita, who was born in Brazil and has lived in Denmark for 14 years, has a background in nursing and has carried out research on chronic pain and palliative care.

Chronic pain is subjective
What is chronic pain? It is pain that lasts longer than expected – often for several months. Chronic pain can occur in connection with, for example, physical trauma, arthritis or migraine or as phantom pain after amputation.

“But chronic pain is not only pain in the traditional physical sense, and the research project will also address this. Patients’ mental and spiritual health and thus their daily lives and quality of life are also challenged. In addition, they risk developing anxiety and depression. Chronic pain is experienced subjectively depending on, among other factors, gender and cultural background,” explains Geana Kurita, who also emphasizes the socioeconomic consequences of chronic pain, such as long-term sick leave and ultimately an invalidity pension when people are disabled and in poor health.

Knowledge for a broad target group
Chronic pain has multiple effects, and this is matched by the ambitions of the new research project, which, in addition to Geana Kurita, includes Suzanne Forsyth Herling (Associate Professor/Senior Researcher) and Hanne Würtzen (Clinical Psychologist/PhD) from the Neuroscience Centre at Rigshospitalet.

The research project will include a population study to identify risk factors for chronic pain and determine the current trends in the consumption of opioids in Denmark.

The researchers behind the project also want to propose new approaches that can support patients in self-managing their pain, prevent it from worsening and especially in improving their quality of life. They will test training programmes based on mindfulness, educational video and behavioural therapy via virtual reality.

In addition to scientific articles, the new knowledge is intended to reach a broad target group, including professionals, public authorities, health policymakers and the general public.

“I hope that the project will enable us to help thousands of people improve their quality of life, also while waiting for treatment. I also hope that the consumption of opioids will decline in the long term. We also need to inform the health authorities and health policy-makers so that they know where to set their priorities in this area,” says Geana Kurita.

About the Novo Nordisk Foundation Nursing Research Programme
The Novo Nordisk Foundation Nursing Research Programme was launched in 2015. The Foundation allocated up to DKK 75 million to the Programme for the years 2015–2025 to support 10 research programmes with grants of up to DKK 7.5 million per project.

The Programme aims to provide nurses experienced in research leadership with an opportunity to apply for major nursing research projects with the potential to create value within both research and patient care.

New application round soon
There is an annual call for applications. The deadline for the next call, which opens at the end of 2021 is 1 March 2022.

About the Novo Nordisk Foundation
The Novo Nordisk Foundation is an independent Danish foundation with corporate interests. It has two objectives: 1) to provide a stable basis for the commercial and research activities of the companies in the Novo Group; and 2) to support scientific, humanitarian and social causes.

The vision of the Foundation is to contribute significantly to research and development that improves the lives of people and the sustainability of society. Since 2010, the Foundation has donated more than DKK 30 billion (€4 billion), primarily for research at public institutions and hospitals in Denmark and the other Nordic countries as well as research-based treatment and prevention of diabetes. Read more at

Further information

Geana Kurita, Professor, Department of Anaesthesiology, Pain and Respiratory Support, Neuroscience Centre/Department of Oncology, Centre for Cancer and Organ Diseases, Rigshospitalet, Copenhagen and Department of Clinical Medicine, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, University of Copenhagen, [email protected]

Christian Mostrup, Senior Programme Lead, Novo Nordisk Foundation, +45 3067 4805, [email protected]