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Chronic Pain: Facts and Figures (USA)

As I sit down to write this post, the US population stands at almost 322 million persons. There is one birth approximately every 8 seconds, and one death approximately every 13 seconds. One new international migrant enters this country every 32 seconds. That means the US population increases by 1 person every 12 seconds.  



I started to wonder...how many persons in our country actually suffer from some form of chronic pain?  There is not a clear cut answer; the biggest reason for that what is actually considered to be chronic pain. I know there are a lot of people out there, and I've rattled of a lot of statistics from various sources when writing for this blog... but what are the real numbers???

Back in 2011, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) published a report entitled "Relieving Pain in America." This landmark study suggested that there were over 100 million persons in this country who suffer from persistent or severe chronic pain.  This would mean that 1 of every 3 persons is affected. Doesn't that sound like an awful lot of people?  Dr. Andrew Kolodny, president of Physicians for Responsible Opioid Therapy says this is ridiculous.  He says that this the phrasing used for this study was used so that the pharmaceutical lobbyists could drum up advocacy for chronic opioid use.

The reason for this alarming number is simple.  The study used the phrase "anyone who reported severe or moderate pain, joint pain, arthritis or pain that interfered with their ability to to work or do household chores during the previous four weeks" to define a person with pain.  


Other studies have come out, and the numbers are very different.  Estimates from these studies show a chronic pain population of up to 70 million. That would translate to approximately 1 of every 4 Americans.  For example, the Journal of Pain study conducted by researchers in Washington State back in 2010, came up with an estimate of 39 million persons with chronic pain.  They used different wording to describe chronic pain: frequent or constant pain felt "every day or "most days" in the preceding three months.

The IOM still defends their numbers.  It seems excessive to me, but to borrow a phrase from former president Bill Clinton, " It depends on what your definition of "is" is..."

Sources: Census.gov; National Pain Report; Pixabay








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