When you suffer from chronic pain, it can seem like you’re alone. I mean, only you are feeling your exact pain. Only you are with that specific pain, day in and day out. For many, when chronic pain becomes most debilitating, it may limit how much you can get out of the house, go to work, socialize or exercise. Due to the nature of chronic pain, you may find yourself very much alone — or, at least certainly feel that way.

Yet, those who suffer from chronic pain are decidedly not alone. There are millions upon millions of people in America alone, all suffering from various forms of chronic pain. With so many hurting, it is shocking how little chronic pain information not only the general public, but also doctors, know. Let’s break down those barriers and share as much chronic pain information as possible.

The Widespread Chronic Pain Epidemic

According to the American Academy of Pain Medicine (AAPM), pain impacts more Americans than cancer, diabetes and heart disease combined. Acute and chronic pain affects roughly 100 million U.S. adults, according to a study by the Institute of Medicine (IM). To put it in perspective, the IM study notes that in a single year alone, pain alone amounted to 14 percent of all Medicare costs. Medicare alone covers one-fourth of pain coverage.

That same IM study notes that the annual national economic cost of chronic pain is estimated at a massive $560 to $635 billion. This cost is a combination of health care costs ($261 to $300 billion) and the cost of lost productivity ($297 to $336 billion). The annual societal cost of chronic pain is so high that it averages at $2,000 per person living in the U.S.

Trends in National Chronic Pain

Not only does chronic pain affect millions of Americans, but it also “contributes greatly to national rates of morbidity, mortality, and disability; and is rising in prevalence,” according to the IM study. Although this information is concerning, it is also important for those of us with chronic pain to keep up to date and know what is happening across the country in our own chronic pain community. To help, here are some of the recent chronic pain findings:

From the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention

  • As of 2016, an estimated 20.4 percent (50 million) of adults had chronic pain.
  • As of 2016, roughly 8.0 percent (19.6 million) of adults had high-impact chronic pain.
  • Chronic and high-impact chronic pain were found more in:
    • Women
    • Those who had previously worked, but were currently unemployed
    • Adults living in poverty
    • Rural residents
    • Non-Hispanic white adults
    • Veterans
    • Those without at least a bachelor’s degree-level of education

From the National Institutes of Health (NIH)

  • The 10 most common complementary health approaches among adults with chronic pain include:
    • Natural products (17.7 percent)
    • Deep breathing (10.9 percent)
    • Yoga, Tai Chi or Qi Gong (10.1 percent)
    • Chiropractic or Osteopathic Manipulation (8.4 percent)
    • Meditation (8 percent)
    • Massage (6.9 percent)
    • Special diets (3 percent)
    • Homeopathy (2.2 percent)
    • Progressive Relaxation (2.1 percent)
    • Guided Imagery (1.7 percent)

I wanted to include both the alarming CDC statistics alongside the positive NIH statistics in order to find semblance of balance. Yes, chronic pain is impacting so many, in such varied ways. But, don’t give up hope! There are also various coping mechanisms which can help get you back on the path to no pain again. You can live a pain-free life once again. I believe in you!

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