September has been designated as Pain Awareness Month. The goal is to promote education, advocacy, and awareness about chronic pain and to break down barriers that keep people from getting the treatment they need.
More than 100 million people in the United States suffer from chronic pain. The Institute of Medicine reported in 2012 that the economic cost of pain is more than $500 billion per year in the United States. That includes health care costs and lost workforce productivity.
Under-treatment of pain is a significant problem that impairs quality of life and can be physically, psychologically, and socially debilitating. According to the results of the 2010 Massachusetts Pain Institute survey of adults with chronic pain, 79 percent had trouble sleeping, 68 percent had a reduced ability to do everyday things, and 73 percent had difficulty working.
Pain was adopted as the “fifth vital sign” in 2001. That has increased awareness and acceptance of the problem of chronic pain. In spite of those advances, there are still barriers to effective treatment, including limited training, prescribers’ fear of scrutiny by regulators, misconceptions about abuse of medication and addiction, institutional barriers, and regulatory restrictions on the prescribing of controlled substances.
One of the main goals of Pain Awareness Month is to foster partnerships between individuals and organizations to bring about change. Participants want to promote education, awareness, and advocacy to address barriers to effective pain management.
Health care professionals can participate in Pain Awareness Month by educating the public on topics such as chronic pain conditions, self-management skills, meditation, stretching, misconceptions about chronic pain, how to seek pain management through Medicare, medication safety, and community outreach. Hospitals and other health care facilities can offer educational sessions and discussions for staff. Clinicians can provide educational materials to their patients and their families and caregivers, facilitate chronic pain support groups, and refer patients to organizations that can help them manage their pain.
Millions of people suffer from chronic pain because they do not know what resources are available to help. We hope that by raising awareness and sharing information, more people can find the relief they need so that they can live comfortable and productive lives.