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Dynamic Chiropractic – July 16, 2005, Vol. 23, Issue 15

Too Many Americans in Pain; Too Few Taking Appropriate Steps to Resolve It

By Editorial Staff
As a chiropractor, you deal with patients in pain every day. However, even you may be shocked by some of the statistics emerging from a recent national survey of Americans' experiences with pain and pain management.

The telephone survey,1 a joint effort by ABC News, USA Today, and Stanford University Medical Center, polled a random sample of the U.S. adult population. Survey questions inquired about, among other things, the prevalence and primary location of pain; the impact of pain on daily life/activities; and what attempts had been made to alleviate the pain.

Here are some of the more interesting results gleamed from the survey, based on 1,204 official responses:

Type, Frequency and Severity of Pain

  • More than two out of every five people surveyed (44%) reported experiencing acute pain; nearly one in five (19%) reported chronic pain. One in three (34%) characterized their pain as recurrent.
  • In terms of severity, 62% rated their pain as either severe or moderate.
  • Almost 40% of respondents said they experienced pain "often."

Pain Relief: Inadequate Attention = Inadequate Relief?

  • Only 63% of survey respondents said they had spoken with a health care professional regarding their pain.
  • For patients who did consult someone, only 31% said they received "a great deal/complete relief" of their pain. More than four in 10 (41%) reported experiencing "just some" relief or "hardly any/none."

Location of Pain: The Back Still Tops the List

  • Not surprisingly, those surveyed named "the back" as their primary source of pain. Other answers to the question, "Where does it hurt?" included the knee, head, shoulder and leg.

Pain Remedies: Drugs, Prayer Instead of Chiropractic?

  • Over-the-counter drugs were the most common reported pain remedy utilized by survey respondents; a whopping 84% reported using them. "Home remedies" was the second most popular pain-relief technique (81%).
  • Prescription drug use was third on the list, with 60% of respondents using them for pain relief. Of those who reported using prescription medications, nearly one in five (19%) took them on a daily basis.
  • Chiropractic tied for sixth on the list (28%) with massage. According to the survey, substantially more people reported using prayer (58%) and bed rest (58%) for pain relief, rather than chiropractic care. Other varied pain remedies on the list included homeopathic/herbal remedies (16%), yoga/meditation (14%), alcohol (12%), marijuana (6%), and acupuncture (5%).

Effectiveness of Pain Remedies Tried

  • None of the five most popularly utilized pain-relief measures (OTC drugs, home remedies, prescription drugs, prayer and bed rest) achieved more than a 51% success rate in terms of effectiveness. Only 34% said OTC drugs worked "very well," and only 51% said prescription drugs did the same.
  • By comparison, despite being sixth in terms of utilization, chiropractic worked "very well" for pain relief according to 45% of those who tried it, ranking chiropractic third among all pain remedies listed (behind Rx drugs and prayer).

So, What Does This Survey Tell Us?

  1. A great number of people are in pain: acute, chronic, recurrent - you name it.
  2. Despite this, many do not consult a health care professional for their pain, and usually not a chiropractor - even though back pain is far and away the most frequently reported source of pain, and chiropractors are well-established as the experts in managing back pain. Case in point: Recent research suggests that chiropractic is the "only" care providing "broad-based, long-term benefit for chronic spinal pain.2
  3. Use of medications is rampant among Americans in pain, but resulting pain relief is relatively low. The survey doesn't even mention the dangerous side-effects associated with many OTC and prescription medications, which may actually increase pain, rather than resolving it.3
  4. When people do use chiropractic for their pain - it works!

The take-home message here is clear: People are in pain, and they aren't very happy about the current pain-relief options available to them. This is another perfect opportunity for chiropractic. Ask your patients about their specific experiences with pain, and also ask them about their friends, family members and loved ones - are they in pain, too? A world of potential chiropractic patients is out there, searching for effective, long-term pain relief.


  1. ABC News/USA Today/Stanford University Medical Center poll. Conducted April 13-19, 2005; sampling, data collection and tabulation by TNS Intersearch, Horsham, Pa.
  2. Chiropractic for chronic spinal pain. Latest research shows chiropractic is the "only" care providing "broad-based, long-term benefit." Dynamic Chiropractic, July 2, 2005:
  3. When painkillers cause pain. Analgesic overuse associated with chronic headaches, neck and back pain. Dynamic Chiropractic, July 15, 2004:

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