Chronic Pain Affects 1 in 5 Americans

HealthDay News — Almost one-fifth of Americans suffer from chronic pain, with the elderly and women suffering the most, findings from a large survey published in the Journal of Pain revealed.

The poll of 35,117 American households provides the first snapshot of the pain landscape in the United States, Jae Kennedy, PhD, a professor of health policy and administration at Washington State University in Spokane, and colleagues reported.

To get a sense of the scale of the Americans’ experience with pain, they analyzed responses to a 2010 National Center for Health Statistics survey. Those who said they had experienced serious continual pain during the prior three months were the focus of the poll, rather than participants who said they had experienced short-term pain or pain that was intermittent or moderate in nature.

Overall, 19% of the adults polled were deemed to have experienced “chronic” and severe daily pain. That grouping did not, for the most part, include adults who said they struggled with arthritis or back and joint pain, as those people tended to say their pain was not constant and persistent, the researchers noted.

That said, the chronic pain figure exceeded 19% among specific groups of respondents, including those between the ages of 60 and 69, women, those who said their health was fair or poor, those who were obese or overweight, and those who had been hospitalized in the prior year.

Among those with chronic pain, more than two-thirds said their pain was “constantly present,” whereas more than half said their pain was at times “unbearable and excruciating.”

For those experiencing chronic, crippling pain there are a variety of potential interventions, including physical and occupational therapy, exercise, dietary changes, weight loss, massage, and psychotherapy, alongside alternative interventions such as acupuncture, yoga, and chiropractic services, Kennedy told HealthDay.

Medicines, including narcotic painkillers like hydrocodone, oxycodone, and morphine, can also be helpful, but only if long-term use is avoided, Kennedy said. “We are clearly overusing opioids,” he noted.


  1. Kennedy J et al. The Journal of Pain. 2014; doi: