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An analysis of responses to a national health survey attempted to tease out the distinct characteristics of Americans with chronic pain. The portrait that emerged was of a chronic pain population that is older, under more financial stress, and more likely to live with 1 or more comorbidities compared with the average respondent.

Editorial staff at Medpage Today conducted the review, which analyzed the results of the 2016 National Health Interview Study (NHIS), an 805-question survey administered to 33,000 Americans. The Medpage staff focused specifically on data related to pain, comparing respondents who reported daily pain with NHIS averages. Here's what they found:

The chronic pain group was older. The median age of the daily-pain group was 59, compared with 52 years for the entire survey group. Within the pain group, about 33% were over age 65—an age range that made up 25% of the whole.

The chronic pain group worries more about money. About 18% of the pain group reported being "very worried" about paying monthly bills, compared with about 8% of all respondents. At the other end of the spectrum, about 47% of all respondents reported being "not at all" worried about paying monthly bills, an attitude shared by only 38% of the chronic pain group.

Comorbidities were more likely in the pain group. Respondents with chronic pain reported higher rates of hypertension, diabetes, and depression than the group as a whole. The percentage of respondents in the chronic pain group who reported hypertension approached 60%, while the whole-group average was closer to 30%. Similarly, diabetes diagnoses were reported by about 23% of respondents in the chronic pain group—twice as high as the overall rate. Respondents with chronic pain were also more likely to report taking medication for anxiety and depression at some point (nearly 40% compared with approximately 28% overall).

The respondents with chronic pain also were more likely than the overall group to see receive regular preventive care, but the difference was slight—66% vs 64% for the overall group.

APTA's award-winning #ChoosePT campaign is aimed at informing consumers that physical therapy is an effective alternative to drugs for the treatment of pain. Housed at, #ChoosePT includes a video public service announcement, as well as other targeted advertising and media outreach. Members can also learn more about the PT's role in pain management through offerings on PTNow, including a webpage with resources for pain management and an opioid awareness checklist.

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