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What are COPCs?

Chronic Overlapping Pain Conditions (COPCs) are a group of conditions that often occur together in the same person. While some people will only develop one COPC, many will develop multiple COPCs over their lifespan. Common COPCs include:

  • Temporomandibular disorders (TMD)
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Vulvodynia
  • Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS)
  • Interstitial cystitis/Painful bladder syndrome (IC/PBS)
  • Endometriosis
  • Chronic migraine and Tension-type headaches
  • Chronic lower back pain (cLBP)

Common COPC Symptoms

People can develop different combinations of COPCs causing a wide array of possible symptoms. However, the most common symptoms that people present with are:

  • Pain
  • Fatigue
  • Poor sleep
  • Difficulty with thinking and understanding
  • Mood swings
  • Anxiety/depression
  • Stress
  • Decreased ability to perform daily activities

Getting support for a COPC?

Most COPCs are diagnosed by a process of eliminating other causes for pain, such as infection or disease. The New Zealand health system is organized by medical specialties that oversee body systems (i.e., cardiologists treat heart problems, while neurologists treat nervous system problems). This means that many specialists, as well as primary care doctors, may be involved in the diagnosis of each individual COPC.

Unfortunately, the process of getting diagnosed can be lengthy for some people as early misdiagnosis is common. So, it's important to discuss all your health information with each provider, even if you think your concerns are unrelated.

Allied Health providers, such as physiotherapists, occupational therapists, dieticians, and health improvement practitioners (HIPs), also provide support for people with COPCs. Allied Health providers support people with COPCs to develop a plan to help them manage their symptoms, which may include:

  • Sleep support
  • Information about chronic pain and COPCs
  • Identifying additional support within the health system
  • Physical activity and exercise pacing
  • Identifying symptom triggers
  • Strategies to manage pain flare-ups
  • Stress management and relaxation strategies

Additional Resources

Online resources to support people to live well with COPCs:
Physical activity pacing:

How to pace physical activity examples:

Top tips for sleeping:

Our work in COPCs

This resource page is part of a broad body of work we are developing to better support people living with COPCs.

The research in this space is led by Dr Carrie Falling. Email:

We would like to acknowledge the support an Health Research Council (HRC) Activity Grant that has enabled us to develop this programme of work. This work is a close partnership with the Otago University, School of Physiotherapy Clinic and Clinic Director, Matt Dick.

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