In the United States, September is Pain Awareness Month. It is a chance for all of us to take a moment to teach patients about the causes of pain and look into improving treatments. Physicians and physical therapists play a critical role in ensuring the safety of patients since they are typically the first person patients will seek out regarding pain management or treatment.
The first Pain Awareness Month took place in 2001, under the leadership of the American Chronic Pain Association (ACPA) and 80 other organizations, including health care professionals and consumer groups. Below is some information that may be a review for healthcare professionals, but interesting to share with your patients and friends.
Pain Points: Fast Facts
- There are over 100 million Americans that are suffering from chronic pain. This figure does not include acute pain or children.
- Pain is a health problem that ends ups costing the public anywhere from $560 to $635 billion annually.
- According to the American Productivity Audit, American workers lose an average of 4.6 hours per week of productive time due to some type of pain condition.
- Changes in barometric pressure can cause people to have increased pain in their joints. This is why sometimes your friends with past joint injuries might know when it’s going to rain.
- In 2005, a study by psychologists at the University of Bath found that women feel pain more than men do. However, women also use more coping mechanisms to deal with pain, seek treatment quicker, and tend to recover from pain faster than men.
- Over 15,000 people die a year from accidentally or knowingly misusing opioids. More Americans die from drug overdoses than car accidents.
Pain Awareness: Common Conditions
Pain Awareness Month is a great time to review some of the most common types of painful conditions. If you are suffering from one of these conditions, see your primary care provider or a physical therapist for more information on how you can manage your pain.
Arthritis refers to over 100 different conditions that result in joint pain, inflammation, or stiffness. More than 50 million adults and 300,000 children have some kind of arthritis. Arthritis cannot be cured, but treatment can make it manageable. The most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, fibromyalgia, and gout.
Back pain can range from a dull constant ache to sharp pain that makes it difficult to move. Back pain is the leading cause of disability in Americans under 45 years old. Those reporting lower back pain are three times more likely to be in fair or poor health when compared to those without lower back pain.
Did you know that there are 150 different types of headaches? These can include migraines, tension headaches, cluster headaches, sinus headaches, and more. Migraines can be triggered by stress, fatigue, or even specific foods. Headaches in children can be triggered by different factors that may include genetics, hormones, stress, diet, and medication.
Every day, over 40 Americans die from a prescription opioid overdose. It is estimated that about 11 percent of the US adult population is suffering from chronic pain. The amount of prescription opioids sold in the United States has nearly quadrupled since 1999. The opioid epidemic has gotten to such a critical point that this past spring, the CDC released a report on opioid prescribing guidelines.
Managing Pain with Physical Therapy
Many people tend to forget that physical therapists are experts in treating and finding the source of pain. In honor of Pain Awareness Month, let’s look at a couple ways PTs can help people treat their pain:
Low-impact aerobic training. These are workouts to increase your heart rate but still take it easy on your joints. This could include using a stationary bike to warm up instead of running.
Pain relief exercises. Physical therapists will target the areas where you are experiencing pain to increase strength and flexibility, which should help decrease discomfort and make it easier to live your life.
Strengthening exercises. By using machines, resistance bands, and even your own body weight, physical therapists will help you strengthen areas to help relieve pain in other areas.
TENS and ultrasound. Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) sends low-voltage electric currents to the area where you have pain. Ultrasound sends sound waves to the places you have pain. Both of these methods can offer pain relief by blocking the pain messages that are sent to your brain.