Almost two in five painkiller users need medication just so they can go to work, a healthcare charity has said.
Nuffield Health warned that long-term use of potentially addictive drugs is "commonplace" after it found that 37% of people who use medication to treat pain say they require drugs to be able to work.
And a third of painkiller users are worried about their dependency on drugs, the charity said.
Half of the 3,100 people surveyed said they managed pain or injury with painkillers in the last year and, of these, a quarter said they take between five and 10 painkillers every day.
One in three people said they were taking strong medication, including codeine and tramadol, to manage their pain. A total of 7% are using even stronger opiates, including morphine and pethidine.
Experts at the charity said painkillers are often seen as an easy or cost-effective treatment option instead of treating underlying medical problems.
Manoj Krishna, consultant spinal surgeon at Nuffield Health Tees Hospital, said: "A lack of knowledge, or fear of treatment, can lead patients into long-term use of painkillers, often without a clear diagnosis by a specialist.
"This can be a very bleak existence, with patients becoming depressed, losing their jobs and often becoming dependent on the drugs. I regularly see patients who struggle to deal with drug addiction after their medical condition has been successfully treated.
"With advances in medicine, it is important that patients explore their options fully. Surgery, physiotherapy or an effective exercise programme may be more appropriate. In the 21st century in a country with a world-class health service, our patients in pain deserve a better deal."
A charity spokeswoman said that people who have concerns about reliance on painkillers should see their GP "urgently".