ICD-11 and Chronic Pain


The International Classification of Diseases (ICD) is a medical coding system created by the World Health Organization (WHO). It is used for documenting diagnoses, diseases, and disease patterns worldwide to promote better healthcare. ICD-10, the tenth revision of the coding system, was released in the United States in 2015. ICD-11, the eleventh revision of the coding system, will become effective on January 1, 2022.


In ICD-10, chronic pain conditions were poorly categorized, making it difficult for physicians to classify these conditions. As such, chronic pain was commonly coded as a somatic symptom disorder, which implies that the pain was caused by a mental condition.


ICD-11 is the first revision to include a specific diagnostic code for chronic pain, identifying it as a distinct physical health condition. It defines chronic pain as persistent or recurring pain lasting at least three months.

ICD-11 includes seven sub-codes for chronic pain conditions:

  1. Chronic primary pain
  2. Chronic cancer-related pain
  3. Chronic post-surgical or post-traumatic pain
  4. Chronic neuropathic pain
  5. Chronic secondary headache or orofacial pain
  6. Chronic secondary visceral pain
  7. Chronic secondary musculoskeletal pain

ICD-11 also allows physicians to use extension codes that reflect pain severity, pain frequency, and the presence of psychological or social factors. These extension codes help physicians better identify, record and communicate an individual’s pain management needs.

The new classification system will make it easier for physicians to diagnose chronic pain and ensure appropriate treatment.

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