The Bane of Chronic Pain

The Bane of Chronic Pain | Center to Advance Chronic Pain Research | University of Maryland

The prevalence and impact of chronic pain is staggering.  The US Institute of Medicine’s report: Relieving Pain in America (2011), estimated that 100 million people in the US suffer with chronic pain.

Recent Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) data report substantial rates of pain from various causes, include:

  • severe headache or migraine (16.1%),
  • low back pain (28.1%),
  • neck pain (15.1%),
  • knee pain (19.5%),
  • shoulder pain (9.0%),
  • finger pain (7.6%), and
  • hip pain (7.1%)2.  

The report also estimated that chronic pain costs society at least $560-$635 billion annually.  This encompasses not only medical costs, but also the cost of lost productivity included days of work missed ($11.6-12.7 billion), hours of work lost ($95.2-96.5 billion), and lost wages of ($190.6-226.3 billion).

The widespread prevalence of chronic pain is only part of the story.  The individual suffering is often relentless and devastating

The IOM report summarizes several salient points regarding the bane of pain in the US and worldwide:

Understanding the experience and impact of pain:

Pain is a major problem for individuals, families, and society, with an increasing prevalence, cost, and impact on quality of life and health status.

The experience of both acute and chronic pain is unique and varies widely among individuals. Pain is influenced by genetics, early life experiences, mood and psychological state, coexisting medical conditions, and environments.

National surveys and numerous research studies have shown that pain is more prevalent and less likely to be adequately treated in certain population groups, including the elderly, women, children, and racial and ethnic minorities.

While pain sometimes can serve as a warning sign that protects individuals from further harm, chronic pain is harmful and impairs productivity and quality of life.

When acute pain persists and becomes chronic, it may in some cases become a disease in its own right, resulting in dysfunction in the central nervous system and requiring a comprehensive treatment approach.

Improving the assessment and treatment of pain:

Ongoing pain has been underreported, underdiagnosed, and undertreated in nearly all health care settings.

—Individuals with pain that reduces quality of life should be encouraged to seek help.

—Because there are multiple contributors to and broad effects of chronic pain, comprehensive assessment and treatment are likely to produce the best results.



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