HILLINGDON Hospital’s chronic pain clinic treats thousands of patients a year who live in serious discomfort.

Many are referred by GPs and other hospital departments puzzled by the source of the pain, which can affect areas including the face, back, legs, hands and gut.

It is one of the busiest clinics in the hospital and specialist nurse Eva Santiago estimates she sees 80-100 patients a week.

They range from a nine-year-old with hereditary joint pain to a 102- year-old with muscular discomfort and degenerative conditions.

Eva said: “It is tough for people because it’s a long-term condition and we can only offer temporary relief through medication, injections and complementary therapies.

“The commonest problem is neck and lower-back pain, including post-operative problems.”

It’s just as well Eva has a ready smile because the majority of patients arrive at their wit’s end after months, and sometimes years, of pain and discomfort.

The clinic treats the physical aspects of pain, while its sister unit, the pain management centre, tackles the psychological element.

The number of patients has steadily increased in recent years following the closure of some local chronic pain clinics. Efforts to introduce a community clinic are still under negotiation.

Average waiting times for an appointment are 8-10 weeks, with a further six weeks for treatment.

If you are recommended for acupuncture, you had better be patient as there is a five-month waiting list, due to its popularity.

Eva says complementary therapies, like acupuncture and trans-electrical nerve stimulation, are treated with scepticism by some practitioners but are popular with many patients.

“A patient is the best judge of whether a treatment brings pain relief, alongside more traditional clinical approaches, such as injections,” she said.

“I like the work because it keeps me on my toes. It is a demanding job but the reward is worth it.”