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NIH examines pain prevalence, severity

Most American adults have experienced some level of pain, from brief to more lasting pain, and from relatively minor to more severe pain, according to a new analysis of data from the 2012 National Health Interview Survey.

The analysis helps to unravel the complexities of a nation in pain. It found an estimated 25.3 million adults (11.2%) had pain every day for the preceding three months. Nearly 40 million adults (17.6%) experience severe levels of pain, the analysis found. Those with severe pain also are likely to have worse health status. The analysis was funded by the National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health and was published in the August issue of The Journal of Pain.

Complementary approaches for pain

“The number of people who suffer from severe and lasting pain is striking,” Josephine P. Briggs, MD, director of NCCIH, said in a news release. “This analysis adds valuable new scope to our understanding of pain and could inform the National Pain Strategy in the areas of population research and disparities. It may help shape future research, development and targeting of effective pain interventions, including complementary health approaches.”

Pain is one of the leading reasons Americans turn to complementary health approaches such as yoga, massage and meditation, which may help manage pain and other symptoms not consistently addressed by prescription drugs and other conventional treatments, according to the release. For this reason, NCCIH research priorities include the study of complementary approaches to determine their effectiveness for treating symptoms such as pain.

The CDC’s NHIS is an annual study in which tens of thousands of Americans are interviewed about their health- and illness-related experiences. The 2012 NHIS asked participants about the frequency and intensity of pain experienced in the three months before the survey. The analysis results used combined data from 8,781 American adults from a subsection of the larger NHIS.

Researchers assigned pain severity using an approach developed by CDC investigators working with the Washington Group on Disability Statistics, which provides four categories of pain. Among the findings of the analysis:
• An estimated 23.4 million adults (10.3%) experience a lot of pain.
• An estimated 126 million adults (55.7%) reported some type of pain in the three months before the survey.
• Adults in the two most severe pain groups were likely to have worse health status, use more healthcare and suffer from more disability than those with less severe pain. However, approximately half of the individuals with the most severe pain still rated their overall health as good or better.
• There were associations between pain severity and race, ethnicity, language preference, gender and age. Women, older individuals and non-Hispanics were more likely to report any pain, while Asians were less likely.
• Minorities who did not choose to be interviewed in English were markedly less likely to report pain.
• The impact of gender on pain varied by race and ethnicity.

“This report begins to answer calls for better national data on the nature and extent of the pain problem,” analysis author Richard L. Nahin, PhD, MPH, lead epidemiologist for NCCIH, said in the release. “The experience of pain is subjective. It’s not surprising then that the data show varied responses to pain even in those with similar levels of pain. Continuing analyses of these data may help identify subpopulations that would benefit from additional pain-treatment options.”

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By | 2015-08-20T16:03:21-04:00 August 18th, 2015|Categories: Nursing News|0 Comments

About the Author:

Sallie Jimenez
Sallie Jimenez is content manager for healthcare for from Relias. She develops and edits content for the blog, which covers industry news and trends in the nursing profession and healthcare. She also develops content for the Digital Editions. She has more than 25 years of healthcare journalism, content marketing and editing experience.

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