Pain and its Costs


Personal and Socioeconomic - Some basic facts:

 Chronic Pain

Over one billion people globally suffer from chronic pain. In the US, 76 million adults* suffer from chronic pain.  At least 50% of these do not get effective care and live in constant pain. And these numbers don’t include those individuals suffering from pain caused by cancer, acute pain, or pediatric pain.

Acute Pain

There are 27 million annual surgical procedures performed in the US – 75% of these involve unrelieved, post-operative, acute pain. In addition, US emergency rooms treat 124 million patients per year, most of whom suffer from acute pain.

In fact, there are over 900 million annual doctor’s office visits in the US, with a high proportion involving pain. What’s most startling is the fact that the number of people suffering daily from pain is greater than the number of those suffering from cancer, diabetes, and heart disease combined.

Personal Costs

The under-treatment of pain can result in sustained pain, depression, lack of ability to function, physical decline, and suicide. Over-treatment can contribute to difficulty in performing daily activities, excessive drug use, drug dependency, and addiction.

Socioeconomic Costs

In the US alone, poorly treated pain results in over $200 billion* lost due to decreased productivity and related medical costs. Given the state of health care in the US today, with the escalating costs of healthcare premiums and higher out-of-pocket costs passed on to the patient, this is a staggering figure. Add to this the fact that over 50 million work days are lost per year due to pain. Under- or over-treatment of pain also results in unnecessary, additional medical care costs both to the private and government-funded sectors. Workers’ Compensation and Disability claims (due to debilitating pain), as well as increased malpractice insurance premiums, also contribute to the ever-increasing cost of healthcare. As a result, this puts a burgeoning strain on corporate bottom lines, household budgets that are already stretched to the limit, and the quality and type of care physicians can provide their patients.

* National Institutes of Health, American Pain Foundation 2006 (Higher figures from Institute of Medicine 2011)

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Emile M. Hiesiger, M.D.

The Corinthian
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