Beyond understanding the scope and magnitude of chronic pain, this is a personal issue for me. My mother suffers from arthritis that has, over the years, led her to suffer from pain 24 hours a day. She is scheduled to have knee replacements this summer, and we’re hoping that will help. But her continuing experience has definitely underscored for me what a life-changer chronic pain can be.
So I was anxious to read the Institute of Medicine report released last month about chronic pain. Relieving Pain in America: A Blueprint for Transforming Prevention, Care, Education, and Research was written by a committee of 19 experts – the nation’s leading experts on reaching out to and treating people living with chronic pain – who reviewed all of the evidence available on the topic.
Unfortunately, their findings aren’t incredibly optimistic. The committee concluded that health care providers and the general public need to rethink the way we view chronic pain – treating it not as just a symptom, but its own condition that requires treatment.
Among their recommendations are to collect better data on chronic pain – who suffers from it and what are the consequences. The medical system needs to encourage more collaboration between primary care physicians and pain specialists, provide better pain assessments and eliminate the barriers to getting treatment for chronic pain. And researchers need to conduct more longitudinal research on pain treatment and translate findings into effective therapies.
On the positive side, the report does offer a road map about how to improve life for patients suffering from chronic pain. Here’s hoping it leads to more evidence-based methods for treating it.