Chronic pain is a problem for 1 in 4 Massachusetts adults. Minorities particularly affected by pain, new survey finds.

2010 MassPI Chronic Pain Survey: 1 in 4 Massachusetts Residents has Chronic Pain

A survey regarding pain among Massachusetts adults living with chronic pain was conducted by the Massachusetts Pain Initiative to quantify the incidence of chronic pain, the impact of that pain, and how effectively people are able to treat their pain. In addition, the survey quantified the differences and disparities experienced by Massachusetts minorities living with chronic pain. The random digit dial telephone survey included people who were screened for within the past two years having experienced pain on a fairly regular basis for at least three months. All of the comparative information discussed is based on statistically significant results at the 95% level of confidence unless otherwise noted in the Executive Summary.

Go to the 2010 Chronic Pain Survey Press Release

Go to the 2010 Chronic Pain Survey Executive Summary

Key findings – Overview

  • Chronic pain incidence In Massachusetts
  • 24% for the general population
  • 42% for the minority population

General Population Data

  • Chronic pain is a significant problem in Massachusetts – this includes untreated pain and undertreated pain.
  • People with chronic pain report living with high levels of pain much of the time.
  • A substantial number of people living with persistent pain have sought medical care for their pain in an emergency room, the most expensive form of care.
  • Most of the respondents’ pain had been diagnosed, but this did not result in receiving adequate pain relief as evidenced by the high reported pain scores.
  • People living with chronic pain report that it has a significant negative effect on their quality of life, some report that it affects their relationships with family and friends, and most indicate that it interferes with their work productivity.
  • Respondents rely predominantly on their primary care providers for pain care, although a substantial number also use other medical specialists, including some pain specialists.
  • Chronic pain sufferers have tried several different types of pain therapies, including exercise, physical therapy, medications, and several types of complementary therapies such as massage, chiropractor, relaxation, etc.

Minority Data

  • Chronic pain among minorities surveyed is a substantially larger problem than among non-minorities and there are many disparities in the care they receive.
  • More minorities suffer from chronic pain, their pain is significantly more severe, they are less likely to have had their pain diagnosed by their health care provider, they are much more likely to have sought treatment for their pain from an emergency room, and they are more pessimistic about finding relief from their pain.
  • Minorities reported that chronic pain had just as significant negative effects on their quality of life and work productivity as reported by non-minorities.
  • Minorities were much more likely to report not getting the treatment they needed for their pain due to not being able to afford it – this is consistent with minority pain respondents reporting significantly lower annual household income than non-minorities.
  • Economic issues are reflected across many aspects of minorities’ attempts to find pain relief – they are much less likely to rely on specialists for their primary pain care, they tend to use treatment approaches that are covered by insurance or are no/low cost (e.g., prescription pain medications, prayer, support groups), while relying less on potentially beneficial treatment therapies that are not covered by insurance (e.g., physical therapy, relaxation, massage), and they are considerably more likely not to have had health insurance in the past and some still report not currently having insurance.

Even when minorities have health insurance, they are significantly less likely to believe they are covered for key items related to their pain care, particularly routine and advanced diagnostic testing.

For further information about the survey, please contact the following MassPI Steering Council members:

Cyndie Rodman, MS; MassPI Communications Council Co-Chair & 2010 Survey & PR/Media Project Leader or Carol Curtiss, MSN, RN-BC; MassPI Consulting Chair