Pain Poll: Many Americans in Pain
Survey Shows Back Pain Is the Most Commonly Reported Source
WebMD News Archive
May 10, 2005 -- Pain plagues most American adults, a new poll shows.
More than half of Americans suffer from chronic or recurrent pain, and
nearly half (46%) of poll takers reported pain in the last two weeks. That
doesn't count the "usual minor annoyances," says the ABCNews/USA
Today/Stanford University Medical Center poll.
The 1,204 adults included in the April telephone survey were a sample of the
U.S. population, so their answers may paint a picture of pain on a national
"Pain has been a hidden disease," says Raymond Gaeta, MD, in a news
release. "It has not received as much attention as other diseases."
"But now there's a growing recognition that pain really is not just the
sensation we have. It's something that interferes with every one of us, with
life," says Gaeta, an associate professor of anesthesia at Stanford
University's medical school and director of pain management at Stanford
Hospital & Clinic.
Most Americans Live in Pain
Pain can be acute (usually short-term and injury-related), recurrent
(on-again, off-again), or chronic (lasting three months or more).
After hearing the descriptions, recurrent pain was cited by 34% of poll
takers, and nearly one in five (19%) said they had chronic pain. Forty-four
percent said their pain was acute.
Where It Hurts
Asked where they mainly felt pain, a quarter of participants said their
backs were the problem area. Here are the leading pain sites:
- Backs: 25%
- Knees: 12%
- Head/migraine: 9%
- Legs (not counting knees): 7%
- Shoulders: 7%
- Feet: 5%
- Hands/fingers: 4%
- Stomach/indigestion: 4%
Why It Hurts
Nearly half (48%) of participants said they didn't know what caused their
For the other half, a quarter chalked their pain up to injuries or
accidents; 20% blamed sports injuries. Arthritis was mentioned by 9%, broken
bones by 6%, and disc/slipped disc/sciatica by 5%. Old age was reported as a
cause of pain in 2%.
Pain's Impact on Daily Life
How much did pain hamper mood, activities, enjoyment, relationships,
work/chores, and sleep?
The responses were split. Just more than half said that when they had pain,
it didn't interfere with those areas of life very much (56% or higher in all
However, the others said pain had "some" or "a great deal"
of interference with life. In this category, for instance, nearly four in 10
(39%) said pain interfered with their sleep and 43% said it affected their
Still, the vast majority of people -- 91% -- said they were "very"
or "somewhat" satisfied with their life.