Chronic Pain Up Almost 40 Percent Among
U.S. Workers in Past Decade But Most Employees in Pain Still Go to Work
Persistent, chronic pain has
risen dramatically among full-time U.S. workers in the past 10 years,
but workers today opt to go to their jobs rather than call in sick,
leading to a growing trend of presenteeism a negative impact on work
despite being physically present at the job.
"Chronic pain appears to be
increasing in prevalence among U.S. workers as Americans age and lead
more sedentary lifestyles," said Rollin Gallagher, M.D., M.P.H.,
editor-in-chief of the National Pain Foundation (NPF) Web site (www.NationalPainFoundation.org),
a founding and current member of the Board of the NPF and clinical
professor and director, Center for Pain Medicine, Research and Policy
of the University of Pennsylvania.
"This survey indicates that
employees with chronic pain must become their own advocates, understand
the impact of their chronic pain and work with their healthcare
provider to identify appropriate treatment options."
Chronic pain, defined in the
survey as pain that lasts for at least six months, was more common in
the workplace in 2006 than it was in 1996 (26 percent vs. 19 percent).
The study fundings are from a
2006 national survey conducted by Harris Interactive on "Pain in the
sponsored by PriCara , Unit of Ortho-McNeil Inc., and conducted in
partnership with the National Pain Foundation (NPF). The survey was an
update to the 1996 Louis Harris & Associates poll on the
subject, sponsored by Ortho-McNeil Pharmaceutical Inc.
In Pain Still Go To Work
Today, almost nine in 10
employees with chronic pain (89 percent) typically go to work rather
than stay home when experiencing chronic pain, the survey found. The
same percentage of employees (89 percent) reported experiencing chronic
pain at work "often" or "sometimes." Ninety-five percent of employees
with persistent, chronic pain reported that their pain must be
moderately severe or very severe to cause them to stay home from work.
"In my practice, I am seeing
an increasing number of patients for chronic pain and hearing more
patients talk about how their pain affects activities of daily living,"
said Dr. Charles Argoff, director and assistant professor of neurology,
New York University School of Medicine, New York, New York. "They're
looking for ways to manage their pain, and there are treatments that
can help such as diet and exercise, physical therapy, acupuncture and a
variety of over-the-counter and prescription medications.
Pain at Work
There have been positive
changes in the workplace in the last decade. More than two-thirds, or
66 percent, of employers surveyed now offer worksite wellness programs
to employees, compared to 40 percent in 1996. But while the number of
wellness programs is relatively high, the number of programs addressing
chronic pain is not. Only 22 percent of wellness programs include a
component about preventing or living with chronic pain conditions.
"We have seen some
improvement in the recognition of pain-related illness in the
workplace, and that should be commended," said Dr. Gallagher. "But more
U.S. businesses should invest in these wellness programs. Once
employees are given the tools to better understand and manage their
pain successfully, they can begin to improve many areas of their lives
affected by their chronic pain."
NPF, a non-profit 501(c)(3)
organization, was established in 1998 to advance functional recovery of
persons in pain through information, education, awareness and support.
more information on the pain in the workplace survey, visit www.painandwork.com.