The State of Pain in America

Description of the Current (Dismal) Pain Environment:

On July 29, 2011, the IOM submitted to Congress the first comprehensive report on the “state of pain” in the United States called “Relieving Pain in America: A Blueprint for Transforming Prevention, Treatment, and Research.”  This report sends a clear message to policy makers and the American public that pain is a major a public health problem that needs to be addressed. According to the report, more than 100 million Americans suffer with chronic pain, costing at least $560-$635 billion annually. The document provides “a blueprint” for achieving a “cultural transformation” to “prevent, assess, treat, and understand pain of all types by advancing the concept that optimal care requires an integrated, bio-psycho-social approach.

The Pain Policy Environment:

In spite of this rising epidemic of unrelieved pain in America, the public, media, and policy makers have focused their attention on the problem of the diversion, abuse, and misuse of pain medications. While the seriousness of this problem cannot be underestimated and must be equally addressed, it has wreaked havoc on the entire pain management environment. Learn more. Throughout the nation, policy makers determined to curb the illegal use of pain medications have enacted unreasonable laws and regulations that restrict access to care. In some states, only those physicians with board certification can practice as pain management providers. This severely limits access to care because the majority of people with pain see primary care providers who are not board certified in pain medicine.

Many health care providers are fearful about treating pain and are suspicious of their patients with pain, seeing them as potential criminals. Many now refuse to treat pain at all. This has left countless individuals stigmatized, without the care they need, in despair, and without a platform for their individual and collective voices to be heard. TPC will harness the voices of people with pain and provide them with the support and training they need to effectively communicate their needs to health care providers, policymakers, the media, and the public.

The Clinical Environment:

Few people with pain have access to the patient-centered comprehensive (integrative) care described in the IOM report. Some of the reasons include:

  • As a society, we have come to expect “quick fix” solutions even for complex problems. Let’s be honest, it’s far easier to prescribe or take a pill than it is to do the work needed to achieve wellness.
  • For health care providers, it is too costly and time-consuming to provide patient-centered care which requires a thorough interviewing process, a detailed assessment, targeted diagnosis and skillful, individualized treatment planning.
  • Currently, most insurance companies do not provide benefits for many of the services integrative pain management offers and patients have to bear the direct costs themselves.
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