One-in-five people across Britain is in pain every day, or most days, a survey suggests.
Pain has caused an increase in time taken off work in recent years
This amounts to almost 10 million Britons for whom pain has a significant impact on quality of life.
One-in-two of those in pain have taken days off work, an increase from one-in-three in 2002.
Half of those in pain (49%) said the burden had made them depressed and a quarter (26%) found their sex life had been affected.
The results of the 2005 Pain Survey, in which the British Pain Society questioned 975 people, come despite an increased focus by the NHS on improving patient care.
"Patients must have their pain taken seriously", said Dr Beverly Collett, president of the British Pain Society and Consultant in Pain Management and Anaesthesia at the University Hospitals of Leicester.
The first step should be prompt assessment and treatment by a GP, then by appropriate specialists if required, she said.
"Patients must overcome their reluctance to 'bother their doctor', since healthcare professionals have a variety of therapy options and approaches that allow the effective management of pain."
One in four (25%) said they were in pain on the day they were questioned, while 21% reported experiencing pain every day or most days - a further 26% said they had pain some days.
Despite the increase in time taken off from work due to pain (from 35% to 49%), fewer people said pain caused them to be less physically active since the previous national survey in 2002.
MOST COMMON CAUSES OF PAIN
Back pain: 27%
But other patterns remained similar. Pain was still more likely to be reported by older people, with only 13% of 15 to 24 year-olds saying they were in pain, compared to 35% of those over 65.
Also, northerners were still more likely to be suffering pain than southerners - 27% and 22% respectively.
Of those who said they experienced pain either daily, most days or some days, two-thirds (67%) had visited their GP or NHS Walk-in Centre to address this.
The survey found 14% went on to visit a pain specialist or pain clinic, an increase from only 7% in 2002, but 16% of those surveyed had not consulted anybody about their pain in the past year at all.
Men were also less likely than women to have sought help for their pain - 20% compared to 14%.
Professor Christopher Eccleston, of the University of Bath's Pain Management Unit, told the BBC News website the findings had significant implications for the NHS.
"People are surprised that so many have such complex needs. Treatment is perceived as expensive, when it isn't. And chronic suffering doesn't grab attention.
"We urgently need management of chronic pain to be put on the agenda. It currently falls outside the national service provided and is not seen as a target."
Dr Collett also said there was an ongoing need for GPs in the UK to establish better links with local pain clinics and to refer patients.
She said: "In addition to offering patients treatment for their pain, these multi-disciplinary pain management services may also offer methods of improving patients' quality of life and their physical and psychological functioning."
A Department of Health spokesperson said: "We are already helping the NHS develop new ways of caring for people with conditions such as chronic pain.
"We want to help these people manage their conditions in a primary care setting and avoid a hospital visit.
"Earlier this year we published a model of care for people with long-term conditions which the NHS will be able to adapt locally to help those suffering from chronic pain."