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Survey uncovers treatment concerns among people with pain

September 29, 2011
by News release
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Baltimore, Md. — The American Pain Foundation (APF) released survey results today showing that 17% of adults with chronic pain who have tried to reach their primary pain care providers with questions face difficulties doing so.

The national survey commissioned by APF and conducted online by Harris Interactive in August 2011 among 2,118 adults 18 and older of which 619 currently live with chronic pain, also found that nearly half (43%) of those who have sought out pain treatment options had questions about their treatment after they left their provider's office.

Among these, the top three questions relate to treatment side effects (62%), duration of treatment (55%) and cost (41%). The survey data was released during Pain Awareness Month. The multimedia assets associated with this release can be

viewed here.

"Concerns about side effects, how long to stay on a treatment and affordability of care are all factors that play a role in treatment efficacy, adherence, and ultimately the success or failure of a pain treatment program," said Micke Brown, BSN, RN, director of communications for the American Pain Foundation.

"Consumers are bombarded with messages about speaking with their health care provider with questions. It's imperative that people with pain who are under the care of a health care provider are able to easily access their providers when they have questions. Open lines of communication and trust between providers and their patients are critical in pain management programs."

The survey found that of those who reached out to their health care providers with questions about treatment, almost everyone (99%) eventually received a response, the same day (83%) or one day or more later (16%). Also, nearly everyone (98%) reported that the responses to their questions were "at least somewhat helpful."

Unfortunately, 14% of adults living with chronic pain who have questions about their pain treatment have not tried to reach out to their providers. Reasons cited among these 52 people for not contacting their providers included: not wanting to "bother" their health care provider (11% of those surveyed); fear of looking like a "complainer" (8% of those surveyed); and fear of looking like a "drug seeker" or "drug addict" (7% of those surveyed).

"If a person with pain does not feel comfortable reaching out to their health care provider with questions, that's a red flag," said Brown. "Part of raising awareness of issues surrounding pain is to help people understand their right to timely and effective pain care. We were pleased to see that many people appear to have a good relationship with their primary pain care provider.

"It is critical that people with pain have a solid understanding of their recommended treatment and should feel empowered to speak up if they have questions. As health care providers striving to deliver safe and effective pain care, we expect our patients to report back to us. We, therefore, must make sure that we are available to respond accordingly."

Information about pain and tools to help with health care provider communication are available at APF's website, Additionally, information about pain treatment safety for both consumers and health care providers is available at APF's PainSAFE™ site,

As a part of September's Pain Awareness Month observance, APF also launched the "If I Lived in a World with Less Pain, I Could…" campaign on Facebook this month, which invites people to share their experience online. The submissions will be collected and presented to President Barack Obama in an effort to secure a first-ever presidential proclamation for September as National Pain Awareness Month.

Other Survey Findings
Consistent with other national prevalence estimates, this general population survey found that 28% of people report experiencing chronic pain as defined by pain that lasts longer than what would normally be expected (e.g., after an injury, episode, procedure), which can last for many months, years or a lifetime, can be constant or in intervals, and may or may not be related to some other chronic disease or disorder.

Of people who report pain, 92% have sought treatment of any kind for their pain. Among people with pain seeking treatment for their pain, 72% of people have ever been treated by a health care provider, but this varies greatly by age.

Younger people (18-34) are less inclined to seek treatment, with only 45% saying they have ever sought treatment from a health care provider, while 76% of those aged 55-64 say they have ever sought treatment from a health care provider for their pain. This increases to 88% in adults 65+.

Survey Methodology
This survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Interactive via its QuickQuery omnibus product on behalf of the American Pain Foundation from Aug. 31-Sept. 2, 2011 among 2,118 adults ages 18 and older, among which 619 are currently experiencing chronic pain. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables, please contact Tina Regester at
About the American Pain Foundation

Founded in 1997, the American Pain Foundation (APF) is an independent, nonprofit 501(c)3 and the largest national advocacy organization that serves people affected by pain. APF speaks out for people living with pain, caregivers, health care providers and allied organizations, working together to dismantle the barriers that impede access to quality pain care for all. The mission of APF is to educate, support and advocate for people affected by pain. For more information, visit