Chronic pain is a worldwide issue. Millions experience pain daily, whether it’s acute, intermittent, or chronic. This article focuses on chronic pain statistics because they’re so often overlooked.
It comes in many forms, whether it is knee pain, neck pain, lower back pain, or shoulder pain—and the list goes on.
Sadly, most adults endure some form of chronic pain, and it’s difficult to make it go away. The high numbers may shock you, especially the ones related to North America. Read on and learn some of the most alarming statistics and facts about chronic pain.
Top Ten Chronic Pain Stats and Facts in 2021
- More than 20% of the worldwide population suffers from chronic pain.
- Women are more likely to suffer from chronic pain than men.
- Lower back pain impacts approximately 27% of Americans.
- More than 100 million Americans endure chronic pain.
- About 30% of elderly Americans suffer from chronic pain.
- Chronic pain racks up massive annual costs in the U.S.
- Chronic pain and depression go hand in hand.
- The chronic pain medication abuse rate is very high (up to 30%).
- Chronic pain medication misuse often leads to overdose.
- Chronic pain increases the risk of suicide by 200% at the very least.
Basic Chronic Pain Statistics to Keep in Mind
Given that there are significant chances that you may go through this at some point in your life, there are some things you should know. These are just the basics and will show you how many people struggle with chronic pain, no matter how alone you feel in the moments of pain.
1. More than 20% of the worldwide population suffers from chronic pain.
(Science Direct; Boston University)
Chronic pain is a global issue, which is evident from the recent statistics. They show us that more than 1.5 billion people suffer from one of many types of chronic pain. That’s over 20.5% of the world’s population, which is alarming, to say the least.
Chronic pain rates seem to be the highest in North America and Europe.
2. Women are more likely to suffer from chronic pain than men.
One of the most common questions about chronic pain is, Which population has the highest prevalence of chronic pain, men or women? The answer is women. They’re more likely to suffer from headaches, pelvic pain, abdominal pain, and musculoskeletal pain than men.
Other common conditions in women who experience chronic pain include irritable bowel syndrome, migraines, scoliosis, osteoarthritis, and back pain, among many other conditions. These conditions in women mostly stem from stress, the menstrual cycle, hormones, and social difficulties.
3. Lower back pain impacts 29% of women and 25% of men in the US.
As we said, there are many types of chronic pain. These include headaches, neck pain, back pain, and even facial pain. So what is the most common chronic pain? It’s lower back pain, which impacts approximately 27% of the population. Neck pain and migraines are also very common (impacting 15% of Americans), while facial pain isn’t as common (4%).
4. Postoperative pain is common.
(T and F Online)
People mainly focus on the success of surgeries, expecting their worries to stop there. However, even routine surgeries cause chronic pain in up to half of all patients (ranging from 10% to 50%).
On rare occasions (up to 10%), postoperative pain can be severe. As a result, the recovery rates are slower, and people can’t go back to their daily routine, such as doing their job or participating in sports.
American Chronic Pain Stats and Facts
As we already mentioned, chronic pain rates are higher in the US than in other parts of the world. While there is no clear evidence as to why this is the case, we researched the available chronic pain statistics to try and shed light on this problem.
5. Back pain is a problem faced by most Americans.
In the United States, lower back pain affects 80% of the population. The NIH states that back pain often prevents people from finding jobs, especially those that require physical exertion or prolonged standing or sitting. All of these activities only make the pain worse.
6. More than 50 million Americans endure chronic pain.
More than 20% of the US population falls in among the nation’s chronic pain statistics. Poverty is quick to follow this medical condition because according to the CDC, these two problems go hand in hand.
Chronic pain influences quality of life—it can have a bad impact on sleep, productivity, and so on. Education also seems to have an impact on chronic pain (i.e., those with chronic pain are often less likely to have a high school diploma).
7. About 30% of elderly Americans suffer from chronic pain.
Coincidentally, 65% of US adults over 65 years claim that they suffer from some type of pain. The prevalence of chronic pain in older adults is approximately 30%. Most of them suffer from arthritis (48%), which is followed by neck or back pain (45%), and joint pain (41%).
Migraines and neuropathic pain are less common among the elderly (6% and 10% respectively). People between 45 and 65 are most likely to suffer from long-lasting pain, so it’s not just the elderly who are regularly exposed to chronic pain.
8. High-impact chronic pain is rampant in America.
We’ve mentioned many chronic pain facts, but one of the most troubling ones still needs to be discussed. HICP, a more severe form of chronic pain, affected more than 10.5 million Americans in 2011, as per the National Health Interview Survey. Both disability and the duration of prolonged pain are factors in diagnosing HICP.
Chronic Pain and Depression: Statistics and Data
Dealing with pain that won’t go away is hard. It makes you feel useless and powerless. Just getting out of bed seems impossible at times. Chronic pain affects the mental health of those who experience it — this is how.
9. Chronic pain and depression go hand in hand.
People who experience chronic pain are much more at risk of developing various psychiatric symptoms (three times more likely than those without chronic pain).
Sadly, the effect goes both ways, meaning that those who are depressed are also three times more likely to develop a form of chronic pain. The pain, anxiety, and depression fuel each other, intensifying these mood states and the pain.
10. The chronic pain medication abuse rate is very high (up to 29%).
In the case of pain medication for chronic pain, the stats are also very grim. Between 21% and 29% of those prescribed opioids misuse them. The patients who are given these prescription drugs sometimes become addicted (from 8% to 12%).
Many of those with an opioid use disorder become heroin addicts. Opioids are often the gateway drug that leads to heroin addiction (circa 80% of heroin users had a history of opioid misuse).
11. Chronic pain medication misuse is known to lead to overdose.
(American Addiction Centers)
The results of the misuse of prescription pain medication can be deadly, to say the least. Just in the United States, there are about 17,000 deaths a year as a result of an opioid overdose. These recent chronic pain statistics are grim. Considering that’s only the number of reported deaths, the actual mortality rate could be much higher.
12. Chronic pain doubles the risk of suicide compared to those who are pain-free.
(Open Access Text)
Unfortunately, anyone can be at risk of suicidal ideation, even those who aren’t chronic pain patients. However, this group has a significantly higher chance of committing suicide. It’s difficult to pinpoint the numbers here because many factors influence this fatal risk.
The previously mentioned connection between chronic pain and mental health issues plays a role in this tragic outcome. Doctors must take this into account when planning a patient’s treatment.
The Economic Costs of Pain in the United States
The US is infamous for its healthcare cost, even more so when it comes to chronic pain. While there is no single proven therapy, dealing with chronic pain is higher than any of us can imagine.
13. Chronic pain racks up massive annual costs in the US and Europe.
American costs due to healthcare expenses and leave days associated with chronic pain reach about $560 billion every year. Disability programs also contribute to this large sum, according to the chronic pain statistics from the CDC.
14. Chronic pain costs more than cancer.
(Journal of Pain)
Research conducted by the U.S. Association for the Study of Pain confirmed that the costs of chronic pain outmatch the yearly expenses of cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. Respectively, these yearly expenses sum up to a whopping $243 billion, $188 billion, and $309 billion.
15. On average, opioid prescriptions cost approximately $850 per patient annually.
Most patients with chronic pain in the US pay more than $800 every year for opioids. Of course, the costs are subjective, depending on the opioid dosage—meaning some patients pay even more. Some patients can’t afford them. Remember that chronic pain and poverty often go hand-in-hand.
16. Yearly health care costs increase as a result of pain.
(Journal of Pain)
Everyone knows that medical care isn’t cheap in the US. Unfortunately, the severity of the pain in patients also increases medical costs.
Healthy people pay around $4,000 less annually for medical care than those with moderate to severe pain. Furthermore, people who suffer from moderate pain pay about $3,200 less than those with severe pain.
Coping With Chronic Pain — What Helps?
Sometimes, it seems there’s no help or a way out. Especially if you’re not seeking professional help. Here are some methods that have been proven to help ease chronic pain in patients.
17. A mere 15% of people with chronic pain seek professional help.
Chronic pain stats for women and men tell us that it’s very common for sufferers to completely neglect chronic pain. According to the “Americans Talk About Pain” survey, 25% of those who experience chronic pain go to a chiropractor, while more than 50% of them visit their family doctor. Ironically, the fewest of them will visit a specialist who can offer the most suitable treatment.
18. Alternative methods for chronic pain treatment are more effective than drugs.
According to the CDC, it’s better to discuss the alternatives with your medical practitioner than to use opioids. Exercise and physical therapy can be very beneficial, and so can CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy).
There’s evidence supporting the positive effects of the CBD found in marijuana, the chronic pain facts show. If you can get a medicinal marijuana prescription, consider replacing addictive opioids with natural CBD oils.
19. Vitamin D can help with chronic pain.
(American Society for Nutrition; Therapeutic Advances in Musculoskeletal Disease)
Vitamin D is criminally underestimated. Most people neglect the intake of this crucial vitamin, which can come from food, from exposure to sunlight, or in supplement form.
Chronic pain sufferers should consider these supplements. Taking just 50 micrograms of vitamin D every day may substantially improve your bone health.
20. Physical therapy may prove to be more effective than opioids.
According to the NIH, chronic pain statistics will likely soon support the use of physical therapy in pain management because it targets the source of the pain. A physical therapy expert can target your back, neck, knees, and so on.
The effects won’t be temporary because you can learn exercises, build strength, and improve your mobility. All these methods combined can help immensely with any type of pain.
21. Chiropractic care might be the best treatment for chronic back pain, statistics.
The Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics tells us that chiropractic care is the most effective treatment for chronic back pain. Furthermore, their study confirmed this to be true, at least for short-term sufferers. There are slight risks accompanying chiropractic therapy, but its immediate effects compensate for the risk.
We can conclude that there are certain groups of people who are more likely to suffer from chronic pain based on chronic pain statistics from the CDC and other reputable sources.
But there are solutions. Regular exercise can help prevent chronic pain, and so can a balanced diet and healthy amounts of sleep. The general understanding of chronic pain needs to improve, and when it does, social support will follow.
Treating chronic pain can be very difficult to endure, so it’s better to work on preventing it and spreading awareness.
- American Addiction Centers
- American Society for Nutrition
- Boston University
- CDC health
- CDC HICP
- CDC opioid overdose
- Cleveland Clinic
- Drug Abuse
- Harvard Health
- Journal of Pain
- Open Access Text
- Research America
- Science Direct
- T and F Online
- Therapeutic Advances in Musculoskeletal Disease