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12-06-2011 | Immunology | Article

A quarter of people in Kansas suffer with chronic pain


Free abstract

MedWire News: Chronic pain is experienced by more than a quarter of adults in the US state of Kansas and is associated with poor health, a survey suggests.

Of those people with chronic pain, just over half had suffered for more than 5 years, seven in every 10 experienced it at least daily, and a quarter experienced severe pain.

A third of individuals with chronic pain used prescription medicine as treatment and opioid analgesics were the mainstay of prescribed pharmacotherapy, even among those reporting mild pain, the US researchers report.

The team, led by Robin Toblin, from the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in Silverspring, Maryland, says: "Chronic pain is so common that it might be considered part of the human condition.

"Fortunately, if adults in the rest of the United States have experiences similar to those of adults in Kansas, most people are satisfied with treating chronic pain with over-the-counter medication or with no medication at all."

The findings come from a representative sample of 4090 adults who took part in the 2007 population-based Kansas Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System telephone survey.

Chronic pain was reported by 26.0% of participants and was associated with activity limitations (adjusted odds ratio [AOR]=3.6), arthritis (AOR=3.3), poor mental health AOR=2.0), poor overall health (AOR=1.9), and obesity (AOR=1.6).

There was also a small but significant decline in pain as age increased.

Prescription pain medication was used by 33.4% of chronic sufferers, the researchers report. Of those who used prescription pain medication, 34.5% took antiinflammatory drugs and 45.7% took opioid analgesics, including 36.7% of those with mild pain.

Opioid use was associated with poor physical health, poor mental health, activity limitations, arthritis, and physical inactivity.

With the exception of age and obesity, every variable associated with a higher prevalence of pain was also associated with a greater likelihood of taking opioids for that pain in unadjusted analysis.

In an editorial accompanying the study, Per Sjøren, from Rigshospitalet in Copenhagen, Denmark, compared these results to those from similar research in his own country.

Although there are differences, he argued that "there exists a striking consistency of results across the two societies."

Sjøren noted: "Importantly, in both Kansans and Danes chronic pain was associated with poor physical and mental health, musculoskeletal diseases, activity limitations, increasing age and obesity."

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2011

By Anita Wilkinson

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