The journey of living with chronic pain – with its roadblocks, pitfalls, and detours—can be next to impossible to understand for those who aren’t walking its path.
With the prevalence of chronic pain in the United States—affecting at least 50 million people, 20 million of whom experience high-impact chronic pain that affects their day-to-day life and ability to work – and the challenges and cost inherent in treating it, a significant key is preventing it in the first place.
In the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, the first major federal legislation to address the opioid crisis, Congress included one provision on pain management. It directed the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) secretary to appoint a panel of the nation’s foremost experts in pain management to report on the best ways to manage pain now, to pinpoint gaps in pain care—and to offer recommendations to fill them.
Most people never give a second thought to the months, years, and even decades it may take for a new drug to pass stringent Food and Drug Administration (FDA) standards. There are countless safeguards and testing processes involved in developing a new medication or device that ensure an approved drug works as advertised and doesn’t cause harm.
Nearly every person with chronic pain has been told, “You’ll feel better if you exercise.” But simply telling people to be physically active when they have untreated pain or unaddressed trauma often isn’t helpful. It can make people feel like they’re not seen and, often, the activities suggested to them by providers seem daunting and implausible.