Emotional and Socioeconomic Impact of Pain:

Pain can be related to many different factors including; the nociceptive features of oxidative stress, trauma, surgeries, poor movement habits, improper body alignments, and diseases such as fibromyalgia and endometriosis. In regard to chronic pain, generally, patients have tried several treatments feeling desolated and without hope of being pain-free. The impact of pain is felt at many levels ranging from the effects on the individual, families, the healthcare system, employers, and the community. Chronic pain is a severe disruptor of lives and economies, with a direct link to poor academics, self-care, physical and psychological conditioning, depression, anger, suicidal thoughts, and work capacity. Although, not surprisingly race, gender, and age effects treatment outcomes with African-Americans being least likely to receive a comprehensive pain assessment and management. This has a trickle-down effect onto the lives of these people and could serve as a direct link to certain social/ ethnic groups in poverty-stricken unhealthy conditions. Persistent or chronic pain seems to be reciprocally associated with depression, anxiety disorders, and addiction. Thus, the long-lasting emotional disturbances cause these low mood states which can further increase and perpetuate the perception of acute and chronic pain.

“If you can reduce the suffering, you can reduce the experience of what pain is.” Chronic pain and depression are highly prevalent conditions whose symptoms overlap. A large number of studies have found a reciprocal association between emotions (especially depression) and pain. Early pain experiences are associated with long-term effects, including altered pain perception, increased physical complaints, and even difficulties with cognitive and emotional development. Young patients who have inadequately controlled pain may also be less likely to be compliant with future medical procedures as a result of negative painful experiences. Children that experience pain, acute or chronic, may have an impact on school performance, school attendance, and interactions with peers. This true because the perception and experience of pain can negatively affect social functioning and relationships due to the increased burden of dealing with the symptoms and their manifestations.

Additionally, pain may cause an individual to have decreased physical functioning and a marked increase with difficulty performing simple daily and self-care activities. This may lead to an increase in sadness, worry, anger, depression, suicidal thoughts and a reduced sense of self-worth with the subsequent changes in abilities. People in pain have alterations in work capacity, lower hourly wages, miss more time from work due to an impairment in physical and psychological functioning leading to lower socioeconomic status. Likewise, morbidity, disability and economic costs of pain in America are enormous. It is estimated that the costs have risen up to $560-635 billion annually. This exceeds the annual expenditures for heart disease, cancer, and diabetes combined. In example, low back pain is associated with extremely high costs, including those related to health care and indirect costs from missed work or reduced productivity. The total costs attributable to low back pain in the United States were estimated at $100 billion in 2006, two thirds of which were indirect costs of lost wages and productivity.


Cleary, pain has implications far beyond making one physically hurt. The displacement that pain has on the economy, social life, and on one’s own physical and emotional state can only be mitigated by decreasing the size of the proverbial rock that drops into a body of water. The bigger the rock, the bigger the ripple. The greater the pain, the greater the distortion. If we can decrease the amount of pain one experiences and their attitudes towards it than we can decrease the after-affect and make improvements far beyond increasing one’s level of comfort. Fortunately, more and more research has been conducted increasing evidence of the positive effects that nonpharmacologic treatments, such as cognitive based therapy, chiropractic interventions, massage, acupuncture, electrical stimulation, and movement-based therapies. This is vital in the efforts to alleviate pain and stomp out the perpetuation of reliance on addictive pharmaceutical approaches.

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