Chronic pain, one of the most common reasons adults seek medical care (1), has been linked to restrictions in mobility and daily activities, dependence on opioids, anxiety and depression, and poor perceived health or reduced quality of life. Population-based estimates of chronic pain among U.S. adults range from 11% to 40%, with considerable population subgroup variation.
As a result, the 2016 National Pain Strategy called for more precise prevalence estimates of chronic pain and high-impact chronic pain (i.e., chronic pain that frequently limits life or work activities) to reliably establish the prevalence of chronic pain and aid in the development and implementation of population-wide pain interventions.
National estimates of high-impact chronic pain can help differentiate persons with limitations in major life domains, including work, social, recreational, and self-care activities from those who maintain normal life activities despite chronic pain, providing a better understanding of the population in need of pain services.
To estimate the prevalence of chronic pain and high-impact chronic pain in the United States, CDC analyzed 2016 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) data. An estimated 20.4% (50.0 million) of U.S. adults had chronic pain and 8.0% of U.S. adults (19.6 million) had high-impact chronic pain, with higher prevalences of both chronic pain and high-impact chronic pain reported among women, older adults, previously but not currently employed adults, adults living in poverty, adults with public health insurance, and rural residents. These findings could be used to target pain management interventions.
• More than one-quarter of Americans (26%) age 20 years and over – or, an estimated 76.5 million Americans – report that they have had a problem with pain of any sort that persisted for more than 24 hours in duration. NOTE: this number does not account for acute pain.
• Pain is a significant public health problem that costs society at least $560-$635 billion annually (an amount equal to about $2,000.00 for everyone living in the U.S.).
• Pain is associated with a wide range of injury and disease, and is sometimes the disease itself. Some conditions may have pain and associated symptoms arising from a discrete cause, such as postoperative pain or pain associated with a malignancy, or may be conditions in which pain constitutes the primary problem, such as neuropathic pains or headaches.
• The total annual incremental cost of health care due to pain ranges from $560 billion to $635 billion (in 2010 dollars) in the United States, which combines the medical costs of pain care and the economic costs related to disability days and lost wages and productivity.
• Adults with low back pain are often in worse physical and mental health than people who do not have low back pain: 28% of adults with low back pain report limited activity due to a chronic condition, as compared to 10% of adults who do not have low back pain. Also, adults reporting low back pain were three times as likely to be in fair or poor health and more than four times as likely to experience serious psychological distress as people without low back pain.
While chronic pain affects millions of people around the world, it’s not commonly understood. Pain affects more Americans than cancer, heart disease and diabetes combined! This is a good reason why we should learn as much as we can about pain, how we can properly treat the symptoms, as well as the underlying issues.
So, what is chronic pain exactly? It’s defined as pain lasting for more than 12 weeks. Chronic pain is persistent—where you will experience pain signals for weeks, months and maybe even years if you don’t seek treatment. It can be caused by an injury, ongoing illness or there could be no sign of the root cause.
If you or someone you care about is suffering from chronic pain, schedule an appointment with the Comprehensive Pain Consultant of the Carolinas, a pain clinic Asheville, to learn how we can help. Here are five unexpected facts about chronic pain:
Unexpected Fact #1: Pain is both physical and psychological
Dealing with chronic pain symptoms every day for an extended period of time often leads to increased levels of depression, an overall sense of helplessness, anxiety and many other negative emotional issues. It can start to affect every aspect of a patient’s life! Long-term physical suffering can cause you to lose sleep, making you more irritable, affect your ability to concentrate and even negatively affect your relationships with others.
Unexpected Fact #2: Lower back pain is most common
Most people will experience some type of back pain at least once in their life. Roughly 20% of people who are affected by short-term back pain will develop chronic back pain. There are many reasons why people experience lower back pain. It can be due to trauma, exposure to heavy lifting, not enough exercise or a variety of other common incidents.
Unexpected Fact #3: Smoking can increase pain
The chemicals in cigarettes cause damage to your blood vessels, which decreases the blood flow to your joints. Smoking causes patients to perceive pain more severely due to tobacco’s effect on the nervous system. Smoking can prolong your healing process or even put you at a higher risk for future injuries. It’s also common that people who smoke cigarettes need to take a larger dosage of pain medications to experience relief than those who do not smoke.
Unexpected Fact #4: Pain is an output from the brain
When you get hurt, a nerve ending is triggered, and this sends a single to your brain. Your brain then creates the pain you feel in your body. Without your brain, no pain would ever be felt! The brain is the epicenter for pain—sending signals through the spinal cord to different areas of the body that are experiencing physical harm or stress.
Unexpected Fact #5: Pain can be unrelated to physical harm
If you are hurt, you will not necessarily be in pain. And if you are in pain, you might not be physically hurt. Many patients who suffer from chronic pain have no tissue damage whatsoever. The nervous system in the human body is highly sensitive which can trigger pain when no real threat is present.
More Facts About Pain
- Most people don’t have to live with pain. There are pain treatments. While not all pain can be cured, most pain can be managed. If your doctor has not been able to help you, ask to see a pain specialist.
- The side effects from pain medicine are often manageable. Side effects from pain medicine like constipation, dry mouth, and drowsiness may be a problem when you first begin taking the medicine. These problems can often be treated and may go away as your body gets used to the medicine.
- Your doctor will not think you’re a sissy if you talk about your pain. If you’re in pain, tell your doctor so you can get help.
- If you use pain medicine now, it will still work when you need it later. Using medicine at the first sign of pain may help control your pain later.
- Pain is not “all in your head.” No one but you knows how your pain feels. If you’re in pain, talk with your doctor.