However You Count It, Chronic Pain Is a Huge Issue

According to a recent story in the Washington Post, more than 25 million American adults  — one in ten — reported having continual pain every day during the previous three months, while more than 126 million – over half of all U.S. adults — reported having some sort of pain during the same period.

Another study from the Institute of Medicine found that approximately 100 million adults in the U.S. suffer from chronic pain.  Pollster Gallup estimates that 111 million people in America have chronic or recurring pain.

While the numbers may vary depending on methodologies and polling samples, all of the studies point to a stark reality about chronic pain: it is the number one public health problem in the country and it must be addressed.

I’d like to throw one more number into the mix: 1%.  That’s the percentage of the National Institute of Health’s budget that is devoted to chronic pain.  Given the massive scale of the problem, a $475 million budget for a veritable crisis is woefully inadequate.

The surest way to turn the corner is through more research, education, discovery and deployment of new therapies. Doubling or even tripling the NIH’s resources devoted to chronic pain is a good place to start.

The good news is that there may be hope over the horizon. The NIH could get $1 billion to $2 billion more in funding next year. The movement is due to an amazing new bipartisan political consensus on Capitol Hill that we need to do more to advance medical research.

While this is a promising development and a positive sign that Congress is taking medical research seriously, we need to continue sending the message that people suffering from debilitating chronic pain desperately need help, whether they are 1 in 3 or 1 in 10.


Read about managing chronic pain in my forthcoming book “The Painful Truth,” to be released in September 2015.



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