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March 04, 2021  
SHOULDER NEWS: Feature Story

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  • Many with Pain Suffer Needlessly

    Many with Pain Suffer Needlessly


    March 23, 2006

    "Despite significant efforts, successful pain care clearly is not happening." – Barbara Yawn, M.D.

    By: Jesse Ball for Shoulder1

    As many as 1 in 5 sufferers of chronic pain do not seek medical help, according to a new survey published in the February issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings. Out of 3,575 adults surveyed in Minnesota between March and June of 2004, 2,211 reported chronic pain lasting longer than three months. From that pool of acknowledged chronic sufferers, 20 percent did not seek treatment despite having seen a physician within the last 18 months.

    Take Action
    Steps You Can Take To Get Treatment

    Keep a pain diary

    Report chronic or severe pain to your doctor

    Be able to describe your pain using a scale of 1-5

    Tell your doctor what if anything helps to relieve your pain

    Be honest about your coping methods for pain including medications you may take or the use of heating pads, ice packs or other specialty products

    Let your doctor know if you’ve been limiting your regular activities due to pain



    The reasons for this are perplexing to many. Some see the problem as an issue of diagnosis. Barbara Yawn, M.D., an author of the study, says, "Identification of patients in pain is essential to successful pain care. Despite significant efforts, successful pain care clearly is not happening. Physicians have a responsibility to ask their patients about chronic pain."

    However, the issue could be rooted in other factors. For instance, pain might have a minor effect on certain individuals, or an individual might have had a difficult experience with pain care that resulted in a belief that treatment is ineffective. Also, many people are uninsured and so do not seek help even for obvious painful conditions.

    Pain, the Fifth Vital Sign

    In 1995, in an effort to broaden understanding, the American Pain Society declared pain to be the fifth vital sign. Traditionally, other four, constantly monitored in hospitals and commonly checked by doctors, are: Temperature, pulse rate, breathing rate and blood pressure.

    Learn More
    Quick Facts

    As many as 1 in 5 chronic pain sufferers do not seek help.

    Men and adults under 40 are most likely to not seek treatment.

    Pain is now considered the fifth vital sign.

    Be sure to talk to your doctor about pain. There are other treatments besides medication.



    When asked about the findings, American Pain Society President, Dennis Turk, PhD, was unsurprised. "It is common to think that pain is something you just live with, or that it is an inevitable part of aging. But there is a lot that can be done in addition to treating pain with drugs."

    He believes that doctors' understanding of pain management has come a long way. However, time constraints make it difficult for the issue to be properly addressed.

    Silent Sufferers

    Men and adults under 40 seem to seek treatment less than others. Of silent sufferers, 70 percent complained of moderate to severe pain. Fully half reported serious pain more than eight days out of every month.

    Counteracting the belief that silent sufferers are individuals who comprehensively avoid medical help is the fact that the silent sufferers studied were found to visit a doctor five times per year. Those who did report pain went to the doctor on average 8.5 times per year.

    "Just like people who did tell their doctors about their pain, the people who didn't reported that pain interfered with both their daily activities and their sleep to a significant degree," said Doctor Yawn.

    Last updated: 23-Mar-06

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