Whether the result of injury, illness or a chronic condition, 70 million Americans experience pain annually. The individual pain sufferer may experience a diminished quality of life, lack of mobility and added stress. For the country as a whole, pain has far-reaching cost implications. It is estimated that more than 140 million work days are lost because of back pain. As a result of chronic pain and the loss in productivity that it causes, approximately $60 to $100 billion is wasted each year.
To help fight this debilitating condition and combat its detrimental impact, the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) offers practical ways for sufferers to take an active role in the treatment of pain. The ASA wants to ensure patients are informed about their treatment options and is offering a series of tips to empower the patient as he or she works with a physician to treat the pain.
“Thanks to significant medical advances, illnesses such as cancer and HIV are increasingly becoming chronic conditions rather than terminal illnesses,” Doris K. Cope, MD, member of ASA’s Committee on pain medicine, professor and vice chairman for pain medicine in the department of anesthesiology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and director of the interprofessional program on pain research, education and health care in the University of Pittsburgh Schools of Health Sciences, said in a news release. “Pain is an extremely complex condition — affecting all types of people both physically and psychologically. However, many people suffer needlessly because, in most cases, pain can be treated by an anesthesiologist specializing in pain medicine.”
Patients experience various types of pain, including acute pain, chronic pain and cancer pain. Patients are treated in a variety of ways depending on their needs, including medication, injections, physical therapy, psychological support and acupuncture.
“Patients coping with pain have access to an impressive variety of therapies, ranging from traditional medicine to holistic approaches such as psychological therapy and acupuncture,” Cope said. “When patients are ready to actively participate in their treatment, relief from pain becomes possible, and quality of life can significantly improve.”
The ASA offers a number of steps patients can take with their physician to address pain:
- Take the first step: see your doctor.
- Be an active patient.
- Make a sustained commitment.
- Recognize the important role your physical health plays in your successful treatment.
- Recognize the important role your psychological health plays in your treatment.
- Talk to others who have had the same condition.