Chronic pain causes more disability than cancer and heart disease
combined. Pain is the second most common reason for a doctor visit, after
colds and flu.
Chronic pain is the leading cause of disability in the United States.
About 86 million Americans have visited a doctor at least once seeking
relief from pain that lasted for a month or more. (Source: American Chronic
Pain Association, theacpa.org.)
Of the adults surveyed in a 2000 Gallup poll, 42 percent reported
experiencing pain every day, and 89 percent every month. And they seem
resigned to the suffering, just living with it; only half said they had seen
a doctor in the past three years for their pain.
This reflects recent statistics from a May 2004 survey by the American
Chronic Pain Association that 72 percent of people with chronic pain have
lived with it for more than three years, including a third (34 percent) who
have lived with it for more than a decade.
76 percent of those with chronic pain have it daily, including 48 percent
who say it is ever-present.
89 percent of those with chronic pain use alternative treatments.
Pain As A Women's Issue (sources cited in chapter 13)
In general, because of neurological differences, women are much more
susceptible to chronic-pain disorders of all types, with women constituting
a majority of those reporting chronic pain across cultures.
Women also are more likely to report multiple pain sites, intense pain and
In addition, women are more likely to have other disorders involving pain
and fatigue, including six times the rate for men of fibromyalgia, which
affects 2-3 percent of the population.
Women are about 50 percent more likely than men to have temporomandibular
disorders, also known as TMJ, or jaw pain, experienced by 4-12 percent of
Women are twice as likely as men to suffer from irritable bowel syndrome,
experienced by 15-20 percent of the population.
They are 2.5 times more likely than men to have rheumatoid arthritis, an
autoimmune disorder of 1 percent of the population.
They are .5 to 4 times more likely as men to have osteoarthritis, a
disorder typically striking up to 80 percent of the population after age 65.
And they are 9 times more likely to develop interstitial cystitis, a
chronic and often painful inflammation of the bladder, affecting about .5
percent of the population.
The Secret of Chronic Daily Headache
Those with chronic pain generally live double lives, of
constantly trying to appear "normal" while secretly struggling to do
the most "minor" tasks. And for headache sufferers in particular, the
specific problem of chronic daily headache has been especially hidden,
misunderstood, and underreported. (Some doctors describe CDH as on the same
continuum of episodic migraine, as a worsening of the same underlying disease.)
Making matters worse, sufferers often feel tremendous guilt and shame for not
being "cured" with drugs or positive thinking.
Chronic Daily Headache as a Disability
Chronic daily headache is generally very disabling. In the
2004 book Migraine and Other Headaches, authors compare those with severe
chronic head pain to others one would more commonly accept as disabled. "In
general, headache sufferers are worse off than people who have arthritis,
roughly similar to those who have congestive heart failure severe enough to
interfere with walking up and down stairs and only slightly better than people
with AIDS," write neurologists William B. Young and Stephen D. Silberstein,
summing up medical research in the field to a popular audience.
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