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Chronic Pain Statistics

Chronic Pain Statistics: Facts And Figures Behind This Epidemic

What is Chronic Pain? In order to understand the consequences of chronic pain, it’s important to know what chronic pain is, and how it differs from acute pain.

Acute pain is defined as a normal sensation, triggered by the nervous system, alerting you to possible injury and to take care of yourself. For instance, if you touch something hot, the pain alerts you to quickly remove your hand.

Unlike acute pain, which lasts temporarily, chronic pain is persistent and the pain signals continue for weeks, months or even years.

The definition of chronic pain is very broad, and is generally defined as any pain lasting for more than 12 weeks.

Chronic pain has a variety of causes, ranging from an initial injury or an ongoing illness, but there may also be no clear cause. Because of this, chronic pain can be very hard to treat and can have negative impacts on the patient’s lifestyle.

To learn more about chronic pain, see this video explanation from the American Chronic Pain Association.

If you suffer from chronic pain, you are not alone. In this article, we bring you the key facts and statistics related to who is affected by chronic pain, its costs and how to manage it.

Key statistics on chronic pain: infographic

Chronic Pain Statistics – infographic

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Chronic Pain in Numbers

The number of people in the United States affected by chronic pain is staggering. Chroic pain is often hard to quantify because it is so subjective, but the numbers below prove this is a national epidemic.

Did You Know?

Chronic pain is the number one cause of long-term disability in the United States.

1) 100 million Americans suffer from chronic pain. This is according to a study conducted by the Institute of Medicine of The National Academies.

2) Chronic pain affects more Americans than diabetes, heart disease and cancer combined.

3) Three out of four Americans have either personally experienced chronic pain or have a close family member or friend who has, according to a survey conducted by Peter D. Hart Research Associates.

4) The most likely people to report pain lasting more than 24 hours are adults aged 45-64 years, while adults 65 and over were the least likely.

5) A study by the National Institutes of Health found one in 10 Americans experienced pain every day for three months.

6) Chronic pain isn’t just an American epidemic; over 1.5 billion people worldwide suffer from chronic pain.

Who and Where?

Chronic pain manifests itself in different ways and can vary from person to person. However, there are several uniting elements, such as areas of pain and who is affected, commonly experienced by chronic pain sufferers.

Did You Know?

Ancient Greeks and Romans were the first to advance the idea that the brain and central nervous system were instrumental in the perception of pain.

1) Over half of adults in the United States have experienced chronic or recurrent pain in the past year.

2) The four most common types of chronic pain are:

  1. Low back pain (27%)
  2. Severe headache or migraine pain (15%)
  3. Neck pain (15%)
  4. Facial pain (4%)

These figures are from respondents taking part in a National Institute of Health Statistics survey in 2004.

3) Women are more likely to experience the four most common types of chronic pain, and twice as likely to suffer from severe headaches or migraines and facial pain than men.

4) Age is an important factor when it comes to who is affected by chronic lower back pain. People 18-44 years old were less likely to experience lower back pain compared to those aged 45 and over, as found in a survey by the CDC.

5) Lower back pain is the most common form of frequent or chronic pain, affecting more than 26 million Americans between the ages of 20-64.

6) 7% of persistent lower back pain cases develop into chronic pain.

Effects

Because chronic pain is a constant or recurring problem, it can negatively impact sufferers’ lives. Chronic pain manifests itself in different ways, but here are some of its most common effects.

Did You Know?

The effects of chronic pain are not limited to the pain itself, which can have a detrimental impact on day-to-day life.

1) According to the Sleep in America poll, approximately 20% of American adults, or 42 million people, report that pain or physical discomfort disrupts their sleep at least a few nights a week.

2) Nearly two-thirds of people with chronic pain report problems sleeping, which often makes the pain worse; thus resulting in a frustrating cycle of pain and sleeplessness.

Nearly Two-thirds of People With Chronic Pain Report Problems Sleeping

3) More than half of chronic pain sufferers feel they have little or no control over their pain. This figure is from a 2006 survey conducted for the American Pain Foundation that evaluated the impact of chronic pain on 300 sufferers.

4) When asked, 4 out of 10 people with chronic pain say it has an impact on their overall enjoyment of life, including interfering their mood, sleep or ability to work.

5) 77% of people report feeling depressed due to their chronic pain.

6) According to the National Sleep Foundation, one in three with chronic pain report not getting enough sleep to feel their best.

Dealing with Pain

There are many different ways of dealing with chronic pain, from visiting doctors, working with specialists (such as physical therapists and chiropractors), taking medication to gentle exercise. We bring you a range of statistics related to dealing with the pain.

Did You Know?

Many Americans view pain as a misfortune and a sign of weakness. Therefore, they believe it’s best to just keep going, as the pain should be dealt with by toughing it out.

1) According to a survey entitled Americans Talk About Pain, more than half of pain sufferers visited their family doctor for help, while a quarter visited a chiropractor. Only 15% of people living with pain visited a specialist for pain management.

2) In order to address the pain, some people with chronic pain have made serious steps including: taking disability leave from work (20%), changing jobs altogether (17%), getting help with activities of daily living (13%) and moving to a home that is easier to manage (13%).

3) Just 23% of patients with chronic pain found opioids effective, according to a 2006 survey carried out by the American Pain Foundation.

Just 23% of Patients With Chronic Pain Found Opioids Effective

4) Nearly all people with chronic pain seek alternative treatments; regardless of the prescription or over-the-counter drugs they are taking, or the nature of their pain.

5) If you or someone you know suffers from chronic pain, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests talking to your doctor about managing pain without drugs through methods such as physical therapy and exercise or cognitive behavioral therapy. These methods can be more effective than drugs and have fewer risks and side effects.

6) Studies demonstrate that low levels of vitamin D are common in chronic pain patients. Taking up to 50 μg could have positive effects on people suffering from chronic pain as vitamin D plays a role in bone health.

Many findings related to this are conflicting, but according to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, human diets do not provide sufficient vitamin D and therefore isn’t a condition exclusive to people with chronic pain.

Cost on the Economy

Due to the vast number of people who have a form of chronic pain, it is inevitable that it has implications on the economy. All age groups result in similar costs on the American economy – meaning chronic pain is a universal issue.

Did You Know?

The annual cost of chronic pain in the United States is more than the yearly costs for cancer, heart disease and diabetes combined.

1) In the United States, pain is a significant public health problem that costs society at least $560-$635 billion annually, or equal to $2,000 for everyone living in the US.

2) 36 million Americans missed work due to pain in a single year.

3) Data from the American Productivity Audit found workers lost an average of 4.6 hours of productive time a week due to pain conditions.

4) Lost productivity due to pain costs the US $299-$325 billion, based on factors including days of work missed, hours of work lost and lower wages.

5) Headache pain was the most commonly attributed cause of lost productive time at work.

6. The economic costs of chronic pain on the economy are similar amongst all age groups, meaning people in their 20s and 30s cost the same as the elderly.

Pain Management or Treatments

Because pain is subjective, it can be very hard to treat. There is no specific cure for chronic pain and therefore, some people may live with it for the rest of their lives.

Most chronic pain sufferers don’t seek a ‘cure’ but ways to treat and manage the pain in order to make their day-to-day lives as normal as possible.

Did You Know?

61% of respondents to a chronic pain survey in Maryland said they did not seek help because they are embarrassed or do not want to seem like they’re complaining.

1) Almost all (90%) of pain sufferers have consulted a medical professional to try and ease their pain.

90% of Pain Sufferers Have Consulted a Medical Professional to Try and Ease Their Pain

2) Four in 10 people with chronic pain say massage therapy and chiropractic care worked very well for their pain, as found in a survey by ABC News.

3) In reference to taking over-the-counter medications for their pain, two-thirds of people said they were not effective in treating chronic pain.

4) Unfortunately, few people feel there is a cure for chronic pain. More than half, or 66% of pain sufferers, expect to live with some pain for the rest of their life, while 30% expect to become pain-free from a cure or treatments.

5) When it comes to chronic pain treatments, 58% of chronic pain sufferers are very or somewhat satisfied with their current method of choice.

6) In a survey conducted for Research!America close to six out of 10 adults would be willing to pay one dollar more per week in taxes to increase federal funding research into the causes and treatment of pain.

Next Steps and Further Resources on Treatment and Pain Management

If you suffer from chronic pain, you can be helped by medical professionals and complementary treatments to manage the pain.

Chronic pain management or treatment differs for each person and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) provides useful guidance.

Because pain is subjective, locating and diagnosing the pain relies on patients and healthcare professionals working together to identify the causes and finding ways to relieve the pain. When addressing chronic pain, the main goal of treatment is to reduce pain and improve function in order for the person to resume day-to-day activities as much as possible.

Pain management techniques can be invasive, non-invasive or pharmacological. Many non-invasive techniques utilize an active or behavioral approach towards pain relief to support, develop and strengthen the capability of chronic pain sufferers to manage their pain.

Non-invasive pain management methods include exercise, cognitive behavioral therapy, mindfulness-based stress reduction, superficial heating or cooling of skin and TENS therapy or another form of electrotherapy.

The American Chronic Pain Association (ACPA) believes these can provide complementary or better relief than those who only take medication or invasive interventions to mitigate pain.

Chronic Pain and Exercise

Chronic pain can often be debilitating, but not exercising can often be worse. If you’d like to get more exercise, it’s best to speak with a medical professional about what would be right for you.

Many types of gentle exercise can be therapeutic and often include range-of-motion activities, stretching, strength training and cardiovascular conditioning. Some simple ways of doing this include walking, yoga, Pilates, Tai Chi and aquatherapy.

Pain flare-ups can be common, even with safe exercise, which is why it’s important to work with a healthcare professional to determine a careful exercise program and help you to understand when and why some discomfort can be ‘good’.

Chronic Pain and Physical Therapy

People with chronic pain often find physical therapy to be a useful way to deal with the pain. In a report by the NIH, which focuses on the overuse of opioids to treat chronic pain, they recommend non-pharmacological therapies, including physical therapy.

Physical therapy is beneficial because it is guided by the patient’s underlying conditions, and aims to find the source of the pain, rather than just treating the pain.

Through tailored exercises, physical therapists help patients reduce pain by building strength and increasing mobility.

The American Chronic Pain Association has useful resources on physical therapy, what to expect from a visit and common tools to assess pain.

Chronic Pain and Chiropractic

Those that suffer from chronic back pain should consider chiropractic care as a safe and non-invasive therapy. Although chiropractic does have some risks associated with it, they are relatively low and many patients feel immediate relief following treatments, as found by the American Chiropractic Association.

A study conducted by the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics found that chiropractic care was more effective than other forms of medical care for patients suffering from chronic back pain for less than a year.

When seeing a chiropractor, they often use a technique called spinal manipulation to try to correct the body’s alignment to relieve pain. This in turn improves your movements and encourages the body to heal itself.

Other Ways of Dealing with Chronic Pain

An article in OnHealth provides several additional recommendations for dealing with and treating chronic pain.

One such recommendation is to keep a pain journal to keep a record of your pain symptoms, what you did that day, and what foods you ate, providing yourself and your doctor with a valuable record that could help to discover more effective treatments.

Breathing deeply is another way to help some of the discomfort or pain to melt away.

Taking daily supplements can also assist with bone health and pain relief, in particular, when it comes to arthritis or other joint pain, according to the NIH.

Therapy and Negative Sides of Chronic Pain

Living with chronic pain is challenging for the sufferer, as well as their friends and family. Chronic pain has negative impacts on many essential aspects of a person’s life, including personal relationships, daily routine and work productivity.

Due to this, many people with chronic pain feel isolated, and they often need empathy from others to help them cope with the pain.

Visiting a counselor or therapist can be beneficial and help cope with the physical and mental suffering caused by pain and they help work through practical solutions to the daily problems resulting from the presence chronic pain.

Specially trained pain psychologists work in a medium where psychology meets medicine and use a combination of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, relaxation strategies and education to empower patients to manage their pain.

Due to the relentless nature of chronic pain, and its inverse effects on the person’s lifestyle, many sufferers find it difficult to deal with chronic pain.

People often wonder if the pain is all in their head, or have difficulty making friends or family understand just how much pain they are in. This often leads to feelings of isolation or depression, and the presence of pain often overshadows the need to recognize and treat depression.

Studies have shown that there is a positive association between individuals suffering from pain and suicide, according to a study and analysis in the December 2015 Journal of Psychiatric Research.

Based on these statistics, the most important thing to remember is if you suffer from chronic pain you are not alone and there are many treatments and medical professionals available to help you manage your pain.

For more information about chronic pain and management, we’d recommend you read through the Guide to Chronic Pain put together by the ACPA or visit the Chronic Pain Information Page by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

Remember, most people find a combination of tailored approaches is the best way to address chronic pain.

References

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  3. National Institutes of Health (2011) Pain Management. [Online] Available from: https://report.nih.gov/nihfactsheets/ViewFactSheet.aspx?csid=57 [Accessed 30 May 2017].
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  8. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (2015) NIH Analysis Shows Americans Are In Pain. [Online] Available from: https://nccih.nih.gov/news/press/08112015 [Accessed 30 May 2017].
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  12. National Center for Health Statistics (see footnote 7)
  13. American Academy of Pain Medicine (see footnote 5)
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  16. Moeller, A. (2016) 3 Little-Known Facts About Chronic Pain. [Online] Available from: http://www.spine-health.com/blog/3-little-known-facts-about-chronic-pain [Accessed 30 May 2017].
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  19. American Academy of Pain Association (2016) Facts And Figures On Pain. [Online] Available from: http://www.painmed.org/files/facts-and-figures-on-pain.pdf [Accessed 30 May 2017].
  20. Peter D. Hart Research Associates (see footnote 6)
  21. Peter D. Hart Research Associates (see footnote 6)
  22. The CHP Group (2014) The Cost of Chronic Pain:
    How Complementary and Alternative Medicine Can Provide Relief
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  23. National Fibromyalgia & Chronic Pain Association (see footnote 18)
  24. Vieth, R. et al (2007) The urgent need to recommend an intake of vitamin D that is effective. [Online] Available from: http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/85/3/649.full [Accessed 30 May 2017].
  25. Holick, M. F. and Chen, T. C. (2008) Vitamin D deficiency: a worldwide problem with health consequences. [Online] Available from: http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/87/4/1080S.full.pdf+html [Accessed 30 May 2017].
  26. American Pain Society (2012) Chronic pain costs U.S. up to $635 billion, study shows. [Online] Available from: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/09/120911091100.htm [Accessed 31 May 2017].
  27. National Academy of Sciences (see footnote 4)
  28. National Fibromyalgia & Chronic Pain Association (see footnote 18)
  29. Arthritis Center (2005) Lost Productive Time and Cost Due to Common Pain Conditions in the US Workforce. [Online] Available from: https://www.hopkinsarthritis.org/arthritis-news/lost-productive-time-and-cost-due-to-common-pain-conditions-in-the-us-workforce/ [Accessed 31 May 2017].
  30. Gaskin, G. J. and Richard, P. (2012) The Economic Costs of Pain in the United States. [Online] Available from: http://www.jpain.org/article/S1526-5900(12)00559-7/abstract [Accessed 31 May 2017].
  31. American Academy of Pain Medicine (see footnote 5)
  32. Morgan Griffin, R. (2007) The Price Tag of Chronic Pain. [Online] Available from: http://www.webmd.com/pain-management/features/price-tag-chronic-pain [Accessed 31 May 2017].
  33. National Fibromyalgia & Chronic Pain Association (see footnote 18)
  34. Peter D. Hart Research Associates (see footnote 6)
  35. American Chronic Pain Association (2002) A Survey of Pain in America (2002). [Online] Available from: https://theacpa.org/uploads/A%20Survey%20of%20Pain%20in%20America%202002.pdf [Accessed 31 May 2017].
  36. Peter D. Hart Research Associates (see footnote 6)
  37. Peter D. Hart Research Associates (see footnote 6)
  38. American Academy of Pain Association (see footnote 19)
  39. MedlinePlus (see footnote 2)
  40. American Chronic Pain Association (2017) ACPA Resource Guide To Chronic Pain. [Online] Available from: https://www.theacpa.org/uploads/documents/ACPA_Resource_Guide_2017.pdf [Accessed 31 May 2017].
  41. American Chronic Pain Association (see footnote 40)
  42. WebMD (2016) Physical Therapy for Chronic Pain: What to Expect. [Online] Available from: http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/condition-15/pain/physical-therapy [Accessed 31 May 2017].
  43. Haas, M. et al (2004) A Practice-Based Study of Patients with Acute and Chronic Low Back Pain Attending Primary Care and Chiropractic Physicians: Two-Week to 48-Month Follow-Up. [Online] Available from: http://www.jmptonline.org/article/S0161-4754(03)00242-2/fulltext [Accessed 31 May 2017].
  44. Harvard Medical School (2016) Chiropractic care for pain relief. [Online] Available from: http://www.health.harvard.edu/pain/chiropractic-care-for-pain-relief [Accessed 31 May 2017].
  45. Support for chronic pain (2015) Why? F&F. [Online] Available from: http://www.supportforchronicpain.com/support-for-chronic-pain/why-ff/ [Accessed 31 May 2017].
  46. Moeller, A. (see footnote 16)
  47. American Chronic Pain Association (see footnote 40)
  48. American Chronic Pain Association (2017) FAQs. [Online] Available from: https://theacpa.org/faqlisting.aspx [Accessed 31 May 2017].
  49. American Chronic Pain Association (see footnote 48)

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