As I sat icing my hips today—I knew my beloved elliptical machine was bad for the hips, but wasn’t expecting the stationary bike to be so tortuous—I recalled an interesting Time article about chronic pain I read last week.
That chronic pain is both exhaustive in reach and hugely expensive certainly isn’t news. Still, some of the statistics the article highlights are sobering:
--More than one quarter of Americans suffer from chronic pain
--Each year, chronic pain costs us $60 billion in lost productivity
--In 2004, Americans spent a whopping $2.6 billion on OTC pain medications
Even more compelling are the recent finding from the Lancet that explore chronic pain and its class implications. The Time article goes on to report that:
“Americans in households making less than $30,000 a year spend nearly 20% of their lives in moderate to severe pain, compared with less than 8% of people in households earning above $100,000.”
Other points of interest? The difference extends to the nature of pain itself. People on the affluent side of the economic split often experienced pain from activities like exercising; people on the other end of the spectrum experienced pain as a result of the physical labor and repetitive movements intrinsic to blue-collar jobs.
What’s positive here is that with better preventative policies in the workplace some of this pain can be managed. But coupled with another study’s finding that those who live in poorer ZIP codes have less access to pain medication because their local drug stores don’t stock enough of it, the picture isn’t as clean.
Anyway, be sure to click on over and read the whole article--I've highlighted what was most interesting to me, but there's more to it, especially information on gender that isn't what we usually hear.
Obviously the scope of pain goes far beyond exercise and physically demanding jobs—from migraines to arthritis to a whole host of conditions, there are plenty of reasons people are in pain, miss work, socialize less. I know for me, the tendonitis in my hips is a source of pain less frequently than pain in my lungs or joints from other conditions. Often these sources cut across class and economic boundaries, but until the gap in access to resources closes, a divide remains.
On a somewhat related note, I was quoted in a USA Today column on spirit-boosting tips when you’re dealing with illness or pain. Check it out--hopefully, some of the patient experience collected there cuts across class and economic boundaries,too.