Don't blame people for their pain, report says
June 29th, 2011
01:38 PM ET

Don't blame people for their pain, report says

Chronic pain – no matter where it strikes – is a problem not many of us really understand.

It can sometimes be dismissed and not effectively managed by health care professionals.

Pain is widespread, but underdiagnosed and undertreated, according to a report released Wednesday by the Institute of Medicine.  The independent, nonprofit organization that gives advice to decision makers and the public focused on pain as a public health issue.

Its committee on advancing pain research, care and education found that much of people’s pain is preventable and could be better managed.

"Their suffering is not something they should be blamed for or something they’ve made up," said Philip Pizzo, chair of the committee, about people who are in pain.  "In the absence of knowledge, there’s an attribution of blame.  Education needs to play a role in that."

The committee reported that pain management training is lacking and that more programs for specialist in advanced pain care are needed.

It also asked for better data on populations at risk, characteristics of acute and chronic pain, consequences of pain and other trends. Treatment doesn’t always have to be drugs – as surgery, behavioral interventions, psychological counseling, rehab and physical therapy are also options.

From the report, here are some pain facts:

– $560 to 635 billion – the amount spent each year in the United States in medical treatment and lost productivity
– 116 million – the number of American adults who experience pain
– 5 medical schools – out of 133 medical schools in America, only five have required courses on pain
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) and opioids are the most common agents for relieving pain
– 60 percent— percentage of women experiencing their first childbirth who rate pain as severe
– 26 percent—percentage of Americans who report low back pain lasting at least a day in the last 3 months
– 2.1 million— number of annual visits to U.S. emergency departments for acute headache (of 115 million total annual visits)

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