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Pain-in-America

Pain-in-America (2)

02 Nov

Chronic pain, by its very nature, can make people feel alone. This oftentimes invisible illness can make it incredibly difficult to connect, especially with those who may not truly understand what you’re experiencing. But serious, chronic pain is more widespread than you might initially think – meaning you are far from alone in this struggle.

A Nationwide Issue

Overall in America, chronic pain affects roughly 100 million people, although it’s difficult to measure the full scope of the problem.[1] To put that number into perspective, coronary heart disease, stroke, cancer and diabetes combined affect 61 million people.[2] That means chronic pain is almost 40% more prevalent than all of those common conditions and illnesses combined. More data on underdiagnosed and undertreated populations is needed before we can truly understand the full scope and effect of the pain problem in the country.

What we do know unequivocally is that it is a problem – one that needs to be studied and addressed. In 2011, the Institute of Medicine (IOM), commissioned by the Department of Health and Human Services, composed a blueprint for relieving the pain problem in America, which deemed pain a national challenge that would take a full cultural transformation to understand, treat and prevent. [1] IOM said that to address such a widespread problem, the public’s awareness of pain and its health consequences must be heightened, and both pain assessment and management must be improved.

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“Among steps to improving care,” the IOM report said, “healthcare providers should increasingly aim at tailoring pain care to each person’s experience.” Pain can no longer be addressed similarly simply because it falls under the category of “pain.” Everyone’s experience with pain is unique – just as every patient is unique – and it should be addressed as such.

The physicians at Advanced Pain Management (APM) are dedicated to providing just such a personalized approach. Take, for instance, APM patient Sarah. As Sarah herself noted, “Many people that suffer from CRPS are prescribed pain medications.” But APM’s Dr. Patel took the time to understand her condition, her treatment goals and her wishes, and determined an individualized treatment plan that not only led to significant relief, but did so without the need for pain medications.

Collaboration in Care

The IOM report goes on to say that the best course of action in cases where pain persists is for “primary care physicians – who handle most frontline pain care – [to] collaborate with pain specialists,” like those at APM. The committee behind the report found that even among health professionals, there “are major gaps in knowledge about pain.”  Pain specialists, whose training includes a focus on pain physiology, diagnosis, management and treatment, understand the complex nature of pain and can help where other physicians may not be able to. Pain specialists, like those at APM, who offer referral-free appointments, are a clear part of the path to a more pain-free America.

“Given the burden of pain in human lives, dollars, and social consequences,” the report concludes, “relieving pain should be a national priority.” For those at APM, who see this burden daily, addressing pain on an individual and societal level is crucial. Only when pain becomes a part of the conversation – and people learn there are places they can turn to for help – can chronic sufferers stop feeling alone and start getting relief.

 

[1] "Relieving Pain in America: A Blueprint for Transforming Prevention, Care, Education, and Research." Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, June 2011.

[2] "AAPM Facts and Figures on Pain." American Academy of Pain Medicine. Accessed March 03, 2016. http://www.painmed.org/patientcenter/facts_on_pain.aspx.

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02 Nov

A new study released in the journal Pain had some interesting findings about the state of pain in America. The research particularly concentrated on the socioeconomic groups that are currently experiencing the most severe pain, but it also delved into the overall state of pain in America. (Hint: It’s on the rise.)

Study Overview

The study,[1][2] completed by University at Buffalo medical sociologist Hanna Grol-Prokopczyk, utilized data from 19,776 adults aged 51 and older. Instead of focusing on a single point in time, the researcher followed the participants over 12 years, from 1998 to 2010, using information gathered from the Health and Retirement Study.

While most studies on the topic have examined only if people had pain or not, Grol-Prokopczyk’s research went one step further, asking whether the pain was mild, moderate or severe – with interesting results.

Key Findings

One of the most surprising findings to come out of the study is that chronic pain levels are on the rise. As it turns out, people who were in their 60s in 2010 are experiencing more pain than those who were in their 60s in 1998.

Furthermore, there is an extreme disparity when it comes to the people who are experiencing the most severe pain. People with less wealth and lower levels of education are far more likely to suffer from more severe pain and disability than those who are more privileged. While this trend was generally known beforehand, the extent of the disparity was a surprise. According to the research, chronic pain is 80% more likely to occur in the least educated people compared to the most eudcated.[3] And those who didn’t finish high school are 370% more likely to experience severe pain when compared to those with graduate degrees. Since severe pain is also the most associated with disability and death, the disadvantaged are most likely to experience those, as well.

Implications for the Future

Currently, it’s not clear why there’s such an unequal distribution of chronic pain in general and severe pain in particular, and Grol-Prokopczyk says more research needs to be done in order to better understand the matter. But what is clear is that there’s a rapidly increasing need for effective pain treatments.

“If we as a society decide that opioid analgesics are often too high risk as a treatment for chronic pain,” Grol-Prokopczyk says, “then we need to invest in other effective treatments for chronic pain, and/or figure out how to prevent it in the first place.”

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[1] Grol-Prokopczyk, Hanna. “Sociodemographic Disparities in Chronic Pain, Based on 12-Year Longitudinal Data.” PAIN 158, no. 2 (February 2017): 313–22.

[2] University at Buffalo. Poor And Less Educated Suffer The Most From Chronic Pain. February 8, 2017. Accessed February 14, 2017 https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/02/170208160411.htm.

[3] Fitzpatrick, Caitlyn. “Pain Is Getting More Painful, Study Shows.” February 9, 2017. Accessed February 14, 2017. http://www.mdmag.com/medical-news/pain-is-getting-more-painful-study-shows.

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