September: Pain Awareness Month

Raising Awareness of Pain

By: Kimberly Breeden, MS, OTR/L

The American Chronic Pain Association (ACPA) recognizes September as Pain Awareness Month with many organizations working to raise public awareness of pain and it’s impact. The Partners for Understanding Pain is a consortium of organizations, spearheaded by the ACPA, that works to increase the knowledge of healthcare professionals to the issues regarding pain and pain management. They list the following facts in their 2018 Tool Kit for Health Care Professionals:

  • Over 100 millions people in the US are living with some form of pain
  • Over $600 billion is the annual cost of pain in the U.S.
  • Chronic pain is an invisible epidemic that has a profound impact on people and society
  • Chronic pain affects people of all ages and backgrounds
  • Almost 1 in 3 Americans have chronic pain
  • Due to fear of stigma or shame many people conceal their pain
  • The personal and financial costs of chronic pain are immense
  • Chronic pain does not just affect the individual but impacts family members

Further information can be found at:

The headlines are full of statistics and news pertaining to the opioid crisis including stricter regulations for the prescription and dispensing of opioid pain medication. The opioid situation has also triggered responses from the  Centers of Disease Control, Food and Drug Administration, American Chronic Pain Association, Institute of Medicine and the National Institute of Health. These agencies have provided guidelines within their scopes for many aspects of treating chronic pain, including the use of opioid pain medication.  Interestingly, they also unanimously recommend non-pharmacological interventions for the treatment of chronic pain.  The following treatment interventions were specifically listed:

  • Self management training
  • Behavioral and psychological interventions
  • Physical rehabilitation
  • Surgical treatments
  • Medical devices
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
  • Exercise and active interventions such as yoga, Pilates, tai Chi, graded motor imagery
  • Physical modalities
  • Multimodal approaches including interdisciplinary care.

Training to relaxation, biofeedback, mindfulness and other coping strategies are typically part of pain self management programs as well as behavioral and psychological interventions.  All of the treatments of the treatments listed are based on the Biopsychosocial Model of Pain which describes pain as a complex interaction among social, physiological and psychological factors.

Those most affected by these regulations and guidelines are the individuals living with chronic pain.  For many of them, the changes leave them worried about the treatment of their pain.  Others may be feeling the affects of the stigma that sometimes can be associated with the treatment of chronic pain.  An increased understanding to non-pharmacological interventions can ensure that our clients with chronic pain receive best practice treatment for learning to better pain management.

My live course Assessment and Intervention Strategies for Chronic Pain will provide a comprehensive understanding to the biopsychosocial factors that impact chronic pain as well as assessment and treatment strategies using the biopsychosocial model that can be implemented in all settings.