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Infographic: Pain Management Treatment and Care

In September of 2019, Health Union (the parent company of partnered with the US Pain Foundation for our first ever Chronic Pain in America survey to ask members of our communities about their experiences with chronic pain. 4,725 people living with chronic pain completed the survey to share how pain impacts their life and their experiences with pain management and treatment.

When it comes to pain management, many people regularly see a healthcare provider, yet pain management and treatment effectiveness are thought to be low. There are things that they wish their doctor knew and better understood about their pain and there are also regrets about how they’ve handled the pain themselves.

Are doctors used for pain management?

When it comes to pain management, 85 percent of respondents regularly see a healthcare provider. Primary care physicians and pain specialists were the most common doctors seen for pain management. About half agree with their provider about their level of pain and discuss side effects and addiction risks with their doctor.

For those not seeing a doctor for their pain, reasons include:

  • lack of satisfaction with previous providers
  • cost
  • lack of insurance
  • feeling like their pain is controlled or well-managed on their own.
85% see a healthcare provider for pain and about half agree with them on level of pain, and discuss side effects and addiction

I wish my doctor knew…

There were a range of responses on what people wish their doctor knew about their pain. Some people felt misunderstood when it comes to the level of pain they are experiencing. They want their doctor to know how excruciating and debilitating the pain can be. Others discussed the emotional side of the pain. They want their doctor to know how much the pain impacts their quality of life and that it goes far beyond the physical effects of pain.

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Quote: I wish my doctor could see the suffering now and how I was before it. I would not wish how I feel on anyone
Quote describing pain as real, unbearable, and life changing. They are not an addict and just want help with the pain

Treatment for chronic pain

There are a variety of options that are used to manage pain, both prescription and over the counter. But unfortunately, only 14* percent feel their pain is well managed on their current treatment plan. There are also barriers to accessing or switching medications. Some alternative treatments are used, with spirituality, heat therapy, changes in diet, and exercise being the most common options.

Barriers to pain medication are that the doctor wouldn’t prescribe it, insurance didn’t cover it, or ran out too soon

Treatment side effects

For those who are no longer taking pain medication or who have switched medications, the biggest reasons are that it wasn’t working (37 percent) and that they experienced side effects (31 percent). The most common side effects of pain medication are:

  • constipation
  • drowsiness
  • feeling “loopy.”

Other side effects include:

  • dizziness
  • nausea or vomiting
  • insomnia
  • bloating
  • GERD
  • mood swings
  • depression.
Common side effects of pain medication are constipation, drowsiness, and clouded thinking

Regrets and wishes in regards to pain management

When looking back, many are filled with disappointment about how they managed their pain. Regrets ranged from wishing they had asked for help sooner to sharing that they should have advocated better for themselves and been more proactive about getting help early on. Others wish they had tried lifestyle changes and alternative therapies first before seeking treatment for pain.

People with pain wish that they had asked for help, stayed active, and been patient with treatment

The Chronic Pain in America 2019 survey was conducted online from mid-September through mid-October of 2019. 4,725 respondents were recruited from Health Union’s Community channels, as well as the US Pain Foundation’s member touchpoints.

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