Prevalence and Profile of High Impact Chronic Pain

Prevalence and Profile of High Impact Chronic Pain | NCCIH (National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health)

It’s ironic that this government center for “complimentary and integrative medicine” (ie quackery) proclaims the tremendous burden and suffering from pain, yet “complimentary and integrative medicine” is ineffective for the treatment of high impact pain and is only somewhat effective for lesser pain.

Almost 11 million U.S. adults have “High Impact Chronic Pain”—that is, pain that has lasted 3 months or longer and is accompanied by at least one major activity restriction, such as being unable to work outside the home, go to school, or do household chores.  

These people report more

  • severe pain,
  • mental health problems and
  • cognitive impairments,
  • difficulty taking care of themselves, and
  • higher health care use. 

than those who have chronic pain without these activity restrictions, according to an analysis of national survey data by researchers from the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health’s Division of Intramural Research and collaborating institutions, published in the Journal of Pain.

Chronic pain is a common problem, affecting about 40 million U.S. adults, but its impact on people’s daily lives has been difficult to define.

The U.S. National Pain Strategy proposed adding disability (activity limitations) to the standard definition of chronic pain (which is based on how long the pain has lasted) to get better information on the impact of chronic pain on the U.S. population.

This study analyzes 2011 National Health Interview Survey data on chronic pain accompanied by restrictions in major life activities (High Impact Chronic Pain) and chronic pain without these limitations.

The survey data showed that

  • 4.8 percent of the U.S. adult population (10.6 million people) had High Impact Chronic Pain and another
  • 13.6 percent (29.9 million) had chronic pain without limitations in major life activities.
  • 83 percent of people with High Impact Chronic Pain were unable to work for a living, and
  • 33 percent had difficulty with self-care activities such as washing themselves and getting dressed.

Compared to people with chronic pain without activity limitations, those with High Impact Chronic Pain had higher levels of

  • anxiety,
  • depression,
  • fatigue, and
  • cognitive difficulty.

They also tended to report

  • more severe pain,
  • worse health, and
  • higher health care use.

Activity limitations were more common in the chronic pain population than in groups with other chronic health conditions, such as stroke, kidney failure, cancer, diabetes, or heart disease.

Basically, pain and/or fatigue are the two major symptoms that would limit a person’s activities. Health conditions that causes activity limitations do so through symptoms of pain or fatigue/weakness.

Since pain also leads to fatigue, it’s clear that pain is the number one limiting factor to human activity. Because that’s the way nature intended our bodies to function, it also made pain the most powerful internal signal and almost impossible to ignore.

Although many people with chronic pain also have other health problems, analyses that controlled for the other conditions suggested that the disabilities experienced by people with High Impact Chronic Pain were more closely related to their frequent pain than to their other health issues.

These results, along with future studies that distinguish people with High Impact Chronic Pain from those with chronic pain without limitations, should improve understanding of the risk factors, causes, and consequences of chronic pain and may help in finding ways to reduce the likelihood that people with chronic pain will become disabled.

Pitcher MH, Von Korff M, Bushnell MC, Porter L. Prevalence and profile of high impact chronic pain in the United States (link is external). Journal of Pain. August 8, 2018. Epub ahead of print.


4 thoughts on “Prevalence and Profile of High Impact Chronic Pain

  1. canarensis

    Another good piece…tho to some extent I have a hard time envisioning chronic pain that does NOT limit “major life activities.” Pain levels?

    I might be able to use this paper (& your take on it) in the testimony; thank you!

    Ran across another article while looking at the one ref’d here, about preventing post-surgical chronic pain (P-SCP)…I thought it’d mention not undertreating pain; wrong. It attributes P-SCP & opioid misuse to anxiety prior to surgery. More “it’s all in their heads”?
    (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy for Prevention of Chronic Postsurgical Pain and Opioid Use in At-Risk Veterans: A Pilot Randomized Controlled Study)

    Liked by 1 person

      1. canarensis

        Unfortunately, that’s all I could see, too. I can’t possibly afford access to all the different journals & journal collections I need. How I miss having a med school library to hand!
        I’m still working on finding someone who has open access that could pass FT articles along to me. I’ll let ya know if I succeed, & then can pass along to you whatever you might want/need.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Prevalence of Chronic Pain Increasing | EDS and Chronic Pain News & Info

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