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A recent study conducted by the National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) sheds light on the prevalence and impact of chronic pain among adults in the United States. According to the study, which is published in The Journal of Pain and available at www.jpain.org, approximately 21% of U.S. adults, equivalent to over 51 million individuals, live with chronic pain.

Most Common Types of Chronic Pain

The study reveals that the most common types of chronic pain reported by individuals are back pain, neck pain, and joint pain. It also highlights that women are more likely than men to experience chronic pain.

These findings are based on data gathered from the 2012 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), an annual study conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that surveys tens of thousands of Americans about their overall health and medical conditions.

The 2012 NHIS survey specifically focused on the frequency and intensity of pain experienced in the previous three months.

The data from the NHIS estimates that within a three-month period prior to the survey, 25 million adults experienced daily chronic pain, while an additional 23 million reported severe pain. Individuals with severe pain not only required more healthcare services but also faced greater disability compared to those with milder pain.

The study further reveals that individuals with chronic pain often face comorbidities such as depression, anxiety, and sleep disturbances, which further complicate their overall well-being. Chronic pain can have a profound impact on a person’s quality of life, leading to missed work, reduced productivity, and social isolation.

Impact of Chronic Pain on Individuals

The NIH study also highlights a high incidence of new chronic pain cases, with approximately 52.4 cases per 1,000 persons per year. This means that about 1 in 20 adults will develop chronic pain within a given year.

The findings underscore the urgent need for improved prevention and treatment strategies for chronic pain.

While various effective treatments are available, including physical therapy, medication, and cognitive-behavioral therapy, it remains concerning that many individuals with chronic pain do not receive adequate treatment.

Associations Between Pain Severity and Demographic Factors

The study also reveals interesting associations between pain severity and factors such as race, ethnicity, language preference, gender, and age.

Women, older individuals, and non-Hispanics were more likely to report experiencing pain, while Asians were less likely. The research highlights the influence of race and ethnicity on the relationship between gender and pain.

Dr. Richard L. Nahin’s Insights and Significance of the Study

Dr. Richard L. Nahin, lead epidemiologist for NCCIH and the author of the analysis, emphasized the significance of the study, stating, “This report provides valuable insights into the nature and extent of the pain problem, addressing the need for comprehensive national data. Pain is a subjective experience, and it is not surprising to see varied responses to pain, even among individuals with similar levels of pain. Further analysis of this data may help identify specific subpopulations that would benefit from additional pain treatment options.

The publication of this NIH study follows the release of the “Pain Research Agenda for the 21st Century” in The Journal of Pain in December. The American Pain Society (APS) identifies promising yet underfunded approaches to develop new treatments and enhance the safety and effectiveness of current pain medications.

However, the APS believes that significant advancements in pain treatment will only be possible with increased investment in pain research. The Pain Research Agenda emphasizes the necessity of devoting more resources to pain research and education to pursue an ambitious translational pain-research agenda.

Who are American Pain Society (APS)?

The American Pain Society (APS) is a dynamic organization headquartered in Chicago, dedicated to advancing the understanding of pain and working towards improving public policy and clinical practices to alleviate pain-related suffering. Comprised of a diverse community of scientists, clinicians, and professionals, APS serves as a multidisciplinary hub for individuals engaged in various realms of pain research.

APS is committed to fostering the growth and development of investigators involved in every facet of pain research, ranging from fundamental scientific inquiry to translational studies, clinical investigations, and health services research. By providing a supportive and collaborative environment, APS empowers researchers to flourish professionally, encouraging innovation and the pursuit of scientific excellence.

At the forefront of its mission, APS passionately advocates for the expansion of high-quality pain research. Recognizing the urgent need for effective and responsible pain relief, the society actively promotes the advancement of scientific knowledge in the field. By facilitating the dissemination of groundbreaking discoveries and fostering collaboration among experts, APS aims to drive the development of evidence-based practices that can significantly impact the lives of individuals suffering from pain.

Through its engagement in research, policy initiatives, and educational endeavors, the American Pain Society continues to serve as a vital resource and a leading force in the field of pain management. By facilitating the exchange of knowledge and ideas, APS strives to enhance the understanding of pain, improve clinical outcomes, and ultimately alleviate the burden of pain for individuals and society as a whole.



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