Pain Awareness Month: The History
Pain Awareness Month began in 2001, when a group of organizations and concerned parties united with a common goal:
“To bring awareness to chronic pain and highlight of pain affects individuals, families, communities, and the nation.”
This year’s theme for Pain Awareness Month – #LetsTalkAboutPain – is designed to reduce stigma around chronic pain and encourage those who suffer from chronic pain to open up and share their stories.
If you’re interested in learning more, or helping raise awareness about chronic pain in the U.S., have a look at the U.S. Pain Foundation Website.
Now, we’ll offer some basic information about pain – specifically chronic pain – in the U.S.
Chronic Pain Data
Here are the latest statistics from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) on chronic pain:
- In 2016, around 50 million people – roughly 20% of the U.S. population – experienced chronic pain. Chronic pain is pain that persists most days or every day for six months or more.
- In 2016, around 20 million people – roughly 8% of the U.S. population – experienced high-impact chronic pain. High-impact chronic pain is chronic pain that results in substantial restriction of life activities.
Let’s compare that to pain rates in other countries:
- In 2001, around 14.1% of adults in a study in Scotland reported significant chronic pain, with 6.3% reporting severe chronic pain.
- In 2001, around 12% of Australian adults reported chronic pain.
Those statistics give us an idea about why pain awareness month is important in the U.S.: the relative number of people who experience chronic pain in the U.S. is significantly higher than in many other countries.
And there’s another factor we need to consider: the relationship of the prevalence of chronic pain and the current opioid crisis. However, that’s a topic that’s beyond the scope of this blog post. To get the latest news on the opioid crisis, click here.
Now we’ll share some additional, lesser-known facts about chronic pain.
Chronic Pain: Things Most People Don’t Know
According to the U.S. Pain Foundation:
- Pain is the number one reason people see the doctor or otherwise interact with health care providers.
- Chronic pain correlates with reduced quality of life.
- Chronic pain correlates with increased risk of depression and anxiety.
- There’s only one board-certified pain specialist for every 10,000 people who report severe pain.
- Ten percent of all suicide cases in the U.S. involve someone with chronic pain
- Chronic pain is the leading cause of long-term disability in the U.S.
- Veterinary students receive an average of five times more training/education hours on pain management than medical students.
That last bullet point is telling, especially in contrast to the first bullet point: pain is the number one people in the U.S. visit the doctor, yet pain management is not a focus for medical students.
That’s something we can all work together to fix.
What You Can Do
First of all, you can share this article to help raise awareness about chronic pain in the U.S. Next, you can take advantage of the following user-friendly awareness tools provided by the U.S. Pain Foundation:
- Download the #LetsTalkAboutPain profile picture frame here.
- Participate in one of the awareness events listed here.
- Share the graphics and information designed for social media here.
- Download the full media toolkit here.
Now you have the tools to make a difference – the extent to which you participate is up to you.
Finally, the last thing you can do is possibly the most important: if you know someone who lives with chronic pain, don’t forget about them. Be compassionate, kind, and empathetic. They do not want to be in pain or be the center of attention, but the fact is, many of them would be relieved to receive any help or support of any kind.
Therefore, reach out and let them know you’re there: sometimes one phone call can make all the difference.
Angus is a writer from Atlanta, GA who writes about behavioral health, adolescent development, education, and mindfulness practices like yoga, tai chi, and meditation.