Chronic pain is a complex issue with no easy solutions.
Chronic pain is a significant health concern in the United States, affecting over 51 million adults or over 20% of the population, as reported by a recent survey conducted annually by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from 2019 to 2021. The same survey revealed that 6.9% of adults had high-impact chronic pain, which significantly restricted their daily activities. These findings highlight the seriousness of chronic pain as a public health issue, with a significant impact on the lives of those affected.
The survey also showed significant disparities in the prevalence of chronic pain among different populations. For instance, Black adults were more likely than White adults to report chronic pain, with rates of 24.4% and 18.9%, respectively. This disparity was even more significant for high-impact chronic pain, with rates of 10.2% and 5.4% among Black and White adults, respectively.
Other populations who were at higher risk for chronic pain included adults who were American Indian or Alaska Native, identified as bisexual, or were divorced or separated. The prevalence of chronic pain was highest among those with a history of chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis or dementia, with rates of 70% and 54.9%, respectively. These findings suggest that certain populations may be more vulnerable to chronic pain, and healthcare providers need to be aware of these disparities when developing treatment plans.
Several factors may contribute to the race disparity in chronic pain, such as Black Americans being more likely to experience chronic health conditions associated with pain, including heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. Additionally, Black Americans are less likely to have access to quality healthcare, making it more difficult to obtain the necessary treatment for chronic pain.
The race disparity in chronic pain is a serious issue that needs to be addressed. Healthcare providers must take steps to ensure that all patients, regardless of their race, have equal access to quality pain management care. The impact of chronic pain is not limited to one's physical health but can also affect their mental health, relationships, work, and overall quality of life.
Apart from the race disparity, other disparities in chronic pain exist, such as those based on gender, socioeconomic status, and insurance status. We should be aware of these disparities and take necessary steps to ensure that all patients receive equitable access to quality pain management care.
Chronic pain is a complex issue with no easy solutions. However, raising awareness of the problem and addressing disparities can make a difference in the lives of those who are suffering from chronic pain. Healthcare providers must be cognizant of the existing disparities and make it a priority to provide equitable access to pain management care to all patients.-Vipin Adhlakha
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021). Prevalence of Chronic Pain and High-Impact Chronic Pain Among Adults — United States, 2019. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep, 70(10), 332–336. https://doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm7010a1
- Hassouneh, B., & Vyas, D. A. (2021). Race and Chronic Pain: A Comparative Effectiveness Review of Analgesic Treatment Outcomes. Pain Medicine, 22(Supplement_1), S72–S81. https://doi.org/10.1093/pm/pnaa483