A survey of 700 GPs and 700 patients with neuropathic pain was carried out by the Neuropathic Pain Network.
It showed that patients had to visit two or more GPs before their pain was recognised as neuropathic pain.
GPs who were questioned said that the main cause for this delay was a difficulty in differentiating neuropathic pain from other pain conditions.
Analysis showed that GPs who failed to ask about symptoms, medical history and location of pain were least likely to identify neuropathic pain.
Screening tools, such as a questionnaire on pain experience, could help GPs to make a rapid and detailed assessment of a patient’s pain experience.
Dr Michael Bennett, senior clinical lecturer in palliative medicine at the University of Leeds, said: ‘Whether through the use of these tools, or by engaging in thorough conversations, improving communication about symptoms of neuropathic pain can help us meet the needs of long suffering patients.’
Ian Semmons, board member of the neuropathic pain network and chairman of UK action on Pain, said: ‘We urge all pain patients, particularly those with diabetes, herpes, cancer or HIV to discuss their pain symptoms with their GP.’