Chronic pain is the most widespread and costly health epidemic globally. It affects 1.5 billion people across the world, including more than 116 million adults in the U.S. alone. Even one in five children suffer with chronic pain. Cumulatively, treatment costs $635 billion per year, and individually, can impose a devastating financial burden on the families of the afflicted.

With only 5% of medical schools offering training in chronic pain, creating a viable delivery infrastructure to reverse this escalating problem has become a national priority. In 2011, the Institute of Medicine, the National Institutes of Health, Congress, and the Army Surgeon General issued a call-to-action urging for transformation in chronic pain prevention, care, education, and research to address the growing epidemic. This transformation needs to focus on the perceptions of chronic pain as well as the methods currently in place to manage it, which all too often focus solely on biomedical treatment.

Patients suffering from chronic pain need to know that there are more options available to them than invasive procedures or drugs, which in some cases can do more harm than good.

The State of Chronic Pain Management in America

Healthcare centered on pain treatment costs hundreds of billions of dollars a year, but the expense doesn’t end with medical bills, as many patients then have to contend with losing time at their jobs. The costs of unrelieved pain can result in longer hospital stays, increased rates of rehospitalization, more outpatient visits, and reduced ability to function fully, which can lead to lost income and insurance coverage.

Additionally, patients afflicted with chronic pain are likely to be suffering from other ailments that impact their daily lives and make it harder to heal with common methods of treatment. Depression and anxiety are two common examples. In addition, the burden of chronic pain severely affects patients’ quality of life. It causes lapses in concentration and energy in as many as 70% of people suffering from chronic pain, according to a survey by the American Pain Foundation.

What are Treatments for Chronic Pain?

The most common treatment prescribed for chronic pain is opioids, but one simple solution cannot be applied to a condition that affects everyone differently. Surgery also has drawbacks, as it can leave patients out of work for long periods of time and may not be effective in correcting the underlying issue. People suffering from “Failed Back Syndrome” and “Failed Back Surgery” know the frustration associated with ineffective surgeries.

Prescription drugs for pain account for a large amount of drug-related deaths. Prescription drug treatments for chronic pain expose patients to the risk of addiction and withdrawal, and place the onus entirely on the physician for relief. This dependency has the potential to hurt patients even more, as it doesn’t allow them to exercise any control over the healing process. And with the added risk of insurance changes, patients may not be able to afford the painkillers they believe are needed, which can lead to even worse emotional and psychological consequences.

A Different Approach

Pain and the difficulty of treating it can create an unfortunate cycle, one that needs to be broken for any significant headway to be made. For this to happen, it is necessary to address the many different components that make up pain. Therefore, a program that focuses on a person’s biomedical, physical, biochemical, psychological, social, occupational, and behavioral well-being is the key to successful pain management and recovery.

Once patients and physicians realize that pain can be influenced by countless factors other than physical injuries, they can then develop realistic plans for pain management. At the Global Pain Institute, our focus is on biopsychosocial treatments for chronic pain and functional restoration, and not on searching for a nonexistent cure.

By empowering those suffering from chronic pain to be actively involved in their own recovery, we are shifting away from  decades of ineffective methodologies and moving toward a new beginning for chronic pain treatment.

Would you like to learn how you can break the cycle and get on a path toward recovery? Contact us at info@institutesofhealth.org or call (800) 270-5016.