A recent article suggested that treating pain is a “growth industry”. In reality, pain treatment has been terribly under-treated, and we are now just starting to figure out that we need to start providing more care. The statistics are clear. Over 40% of the population suffers problems associated with chronic pain. If we recognize how large the problem of pain is, then obviously, we can start increasing the number of treatments for the problems. The article is based on information from Minnesota claim data.
It should not be shocking that we have been seeing an increase in expenditures and number of treatments being performed for those suffering from pain. The true shock is the ignorance we have about the lack of treatment provided for one of the biggest health problems. It is not surprising that from 2010 to 2012, the number of procedures performed for pain increased by 13%. The shock should be that most people are unaware of how severe the problem of pain is and the total lack of government support to guide research toward solutions.
Chronic pain can be a devastating problem, and studies show that it affects nearly half of the global population. The headlines often talk about problems with prescribing opioids and the subsequent drug abuse. We should not be surprised then when we see physicians trying different approaches including more interventions and injections to treat pain problems. With our awareness of problems with drug abuse, and the huge number of people having pain problems, it should be no surprise that expenditures for pain patients may be increasing. Maybe this should actually be applauded, that the underserved are getting some more attention, and we should be asking if we are spending enough yet.
Since chronic pain is such a major problem, more money is definitely needed to be spent on research and treatment. There is virtually no federal research dollars being directed toward pain. Unlike cancer or diabetes, there is no office in the National Institute of Health that is directed toward research for pain despite the size of the problems. If there is a concern about the increase in dollars being spent on pain management, then we need to seriously look at quelling those concerns. Data only tells us we are spending more money on a pain. The real issue is why are we spending a lot more money on this problem and not finding better solutions.