Prevalence, Characteristics of Persistent Pain in U.S. Adults

the MPR take:

Estimated rates of chronic pain and measurements for assessment vary significantly in published research, making it difficult to identify potentially unmet needs for pain management. A study in The Journal of Pain applied data from the 2010 Quality of Life/Functioning and Disability (QOL) Supplement to the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) of 6,775 adults for further examination of persistent pain, defined as frequent or constant pain lasting more than three months. Approximately 19% of those surveyed reported persistent pain, with older adults much more likely to report persistent pain than young adults (with the highest risk for adults ages 60–69). Women were at a slightly higher risk than men, along with adults who did not graduate from high school. About half of adults who rated their health as fair or poor reported suffering from persistent pain; recent hospitalization and obesity were also linked to higher rates. For locations of persistent pain, 41.9% reported lower back pain, 34.7% severe headache or migraine, and 49.2% neck pain. The highest rates were seen among those unable to work due to disability (60.6%). About 50% of adults stated that their persistent pain was sometimes unbearable and excruciating; 67.2% stated that their pain was constantly present. Patients reporting daily feelings of anxiety (45.3%), depression (56.8%), and fatigue (63.7%) were far more likely to report persistent pain than those who reported such feelings rarely or not at all. Only 28.2% said that medication helped to relieve their pain completely, which may indicate that treatment needs to be tailored to the individual patient to also address factors such as comorbid conditions. While this study does provide a more refined snapshot of persistent pain in the United States, the unmet need for pain management in the general population is highlighted in this work.

Published adult prevalence estimates of chronic pain in the United States vary significantly. A more consistent pain measure is needed to assess unmet need for pain management in the general population.