Business of Well-being

The AOA Urges Americans to Break Through Their Pain

Whether your work day is spent behind a desk or on the move, pain is something we have all experienced at one point or another. In fact, a recent survey from the American Osteopathic Association (AOA) found that more than 70 percent of Americans say they, or someone they care for, have experienced pain over the last month. Nationally, more than 76 million people live with pain every day - that's more people than have cancer, diabetes and heart disease combined.

Pain that does not go away after an injury has healed or affects your life for more than three months, called chronic pain, is a serious and unaddressed public health issue that can disrupt our lives at work and home. Chronic pain can come in many different forms, affect many parts of the body and interfere with your mood, sleep, attitude, social life and work productivity.

In fact, the American Academy of Pain Medicine estimates that the American workforce loses $61.2 billion in productive time to chronic pain on average each year. Whether your pain is affecting your personal life or making you less productive at work, the most important question to ask yourself is: Do I have to live with the pain? With the AOA survey revealing that nearly half of Americans mistakenly believe pain is just part of life or part of the aging process, there is a clear need to dispel the common misperceptions associated with pain.

By raising awareness about the safe and effective treatment options available to help those living with pain, the AOA, which represents the nation's more than 78,000 osteopathic physicians (DOs),  is working to dispel the most common myths associated with pain and empower Americans to take action and get the help they need.

Pain: Separating Fact from Fiction

I'll Just Live with the Pain

Too many people suffer from pain in silence believing it is just part of their daily life. In fact, two in five (41 percent) Americans said they would not visit a medical professional for their chronic pain. In order to find relief, it's important to speak with your physician about what you are experiencing right away. Ignoring or undertreating pain can actually lead to more pain, creating a debilitating cycle. Once you start an open discussion with your physician, you can work together to develop a treatment plan that will help you get back to living a more active life with less pain.

My Pain Only Affects Me

Chronic pain is a significant public health issue. While the negative impact of living with pain starts with the individual, it also affects your work team and the entire family unit. At work, pain may make it difficult to concentrate on the task at hand, which can negatively affect quality of work and disrupt team productivity. At home, when pain keeps parents from picking up small children or fully participating in daily family life, everyone feels the impact.

When seeking treatment for pain, it's important to engage members of your family and even bring them with you to help describe how your pain is impacting daily life at home. With open communication, you can work together with your physician to develop a treatment plan that takes the whole family into account.

My Pain Can't Be Treated Anyway

While nearly half (48 percent) of Americans don't believe pain is something that can be eased with proper treatment, it's important to realize that there is no "one size fits all" treatment for pain. Just as chronic pain comes in many forms and affects many different parts of the body, there are a wide range of treatment options available, ranging from exercise or physical therapy to hands-on treatments or rest.

It's important to take an integrated approach to treating pain. Pain medication may only be one part of the overall treatment approach you develop with your physician. Effective treatment requires an individualized pain management program that can only be developed through open patient and physician collaboration. To help you get started, the AOA offers a variety of patient tools available to help you begin an open dialogue to discuss your pain with your physician.

Take Action to Overcome Your Pain

Rather than viewing pain as a sign of weakness, the AOA encourages those living with pain to find ways to describe how they are feeling and engage in an open discussion with their physician. Now is the time to take charge of your health and make a positive change that can improve your life at work and at home. The AOA aims to empower all Americans living with pain to break through it, starting with a few simple steps:

  1. Visit the AOA website and take advantage of new pain assessment tools that can help you describe and track your pain. The Living With Pain? Quiz and Break Through The Pain! Assessment Tool/Patient Journal are both available at
  2. Make an appointment to speak with your physician about your pain - ignoring or under-treating your pain can lead to more pain - creating a debilitating cycle.
  3. Work with your physician to design an individualized treatment plan that meets your needs. - Managing chronic pain is not a "one size fits all" diagnosis. Just as there are multiple types of chronic pain, there are a wide variety of treatment options, ranging from medication to hands-on treatment.
  4. Follow your personalized pain management/treatment plan - sticking to a treatment plan will pay off in the long-run.

About The Author

A fellow of the American College of Osteopathic Internists and the American College of Chest Physicians, Joseph A. Giaimo, DO, is an AOA board-certified internist and pulmonologist in private practice in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. He also serves as clinical assistant professor at the Nova Southeastern University College of Osteopathic Medicine in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

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