Are you in pain today? How about yesterday… and the day before that? You’re not alone! Chronic pain actually affects 20% of the U.S. population.
According to the U.S. Pain Foundation, 50 million Americans live with chronic pain, or pain that lasts most days or every day for three months or more. Of this group, 20 million people experience high-impact chronic pain, or pain that interferes with basic functioning and activities of daily living. Consequently, pain is the number one reason that Americans access the health care system, with costs reaching $635 billion each year in medical treatments, disability payments and lost productivity.
Still, despite these staggering statistics, chronic pain is vastly under-recognized, underfunded and, perhaps even under-treated when considering its significant impact on those who suffer from the condition. Research, treatment options and support for those affected lag behind when compared to other major diseases/conditions.
The Painful Truth
In the spring of 2022, the U.S. Pain Foundation conducted a survey of roughly 2,400 individuals to better understand the public health crisis of chronic pain, and especially so from the patient perspective. The results clearly show how chronic pain negatively impacts one’s quality of life. More than two-thirds of survey respondents said they considered themselves disabled, and nearly all (95%) of respondents noted at least one comorbidity.
Here are some other key findings:
- More than half of respondents said their average pain level is 7+ on a scale of 1-10.
- 99% reported that pain restricted their ability to engage in routine activities, like exercise, household chores, sleeping and socializing.
- Only 18% said they held full-time employment.
- The majority reported feeling stigmatized, as well as anxious and/or depressed.
- Medications were said to be the most effective treatment option; however, costs remained a barrier.
- Self-management techniques were viewed as useful.
Dialing into Support
Respondents shared that, for the most part, health care providers are not equipped to manage chronic pain effectively. In an effort to help people with chronic pain feel validated and heard, the U.S. Pain Foundation hosts various support groups, in addition to Facebook live events, webinars and other resources. Some of the organization’s state chapters offer in-person support groups; plus, accessible to all, are online support groups. For example, the National Chronic Pain Support Group meets online on Thursdays; and another group exclusively for LGBTQ+ individuals meets online on the second and fourth Mondays of the month. The Foundation also hosts online self-management sessions, such as the Building Your Toolbox videoconference series and The Writing Room, which taps into utilizing creative writing as a coping method. To access the upcoming schedule, visit uspainfoundation.org/events.