Clip this quick educational guide to pain management

Points designed for health care professionals

The American Pain Society of Glenview, IL, has created this brief health care worker guide to assess pain and pain management:

Points on Pain

• Pain communicates something may be wrong in the body. Receptor nerve cells beneath the skin sense tissue trauma. These cells send messages from the injured area through the nerves, along the spinal cord and to the brain. Pain medications block these messages or lessen their effect on the brain.

• Pain is classified as acute or chronic. Acute pain, which often is severe, accompanies a specific illness, injury, or surgery, but resolves once the condition passes or heals. Examples of situations causing acute pain are childbirth or bone fractures. Chronic pain persists beyond the course of the injury, for weeks, months, or years. It is persistent pain that may be associated with a long-term condition, such as arthritis, back problems, or cancer. Sometimes chronic pain cannot be attributed to a specific cause.

• Pain is a major health problem in this country and the most common symptom that leads to medical care. It results in more than 50 million lost workdays each year.

• The cost of pain, including medical bills and lost workdays, is estimated at $100 billion per year in the United States.

• Back pain alone produces chronic disability in 1% of the U.S. population, and another 1% are temporarily disabled by it. It is the leading cause of disability in Americans under 45 years of age.

• As our population ages, the already significant problem of chronic pain in the elderly will increase.

• Pain statistics:

— 40 million Americans have arthritis.

— More than 26 million Americans, ages
20-64, experience frequent back pain.

— Among cancer patients, it is estimated that 70% have significant pain during their illness, but fewer than half receive adequate treatment for their pain.

— More than 25 million Americans suffer migraine headaches.

— 20 million Americans have jaw and lower facial pain (TMD/TMJ) each year.

— Nearly 4 million Americans, mostly women, suffer from fibromyalgia, a complex condition involving widespread pain and other symptoms.

— Half of all hospitalized patients have moderate to severe pain in their last days in
the hospital.

• Proper assessment of pain is crucial for effective treatment. In health care organizations, providers should view pain as the fifth vital sign and assess it regularly, along with the other vital signs.

• Pain responds to a variety of treatments, including medication, physical, and behavioral therapies, surgery, psychotherapies, and other interventions. For chronic pain, a multidisciplinary approach, using a combination of techniques, is most effective.

• For patients at the end stages of terminal illness, hospice care specializes in pain relief.