Chronic pain is a "silent, hidden and poorly treated epidemic as real as (the) polio epidemic," Dr. William Maixner, director of the Center for Neurosensory Disorders at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, told the senators.
Worse still, treatments don't "fully alleviate Americans' pain," said Dr. Philip A. Pizzo, dean of Stanford University medical school and chairman of the IOM committee that released its chronic pain report last year. Among its findings: "pain management is a moral imperative," and "chronic pain can be a disease in itself."
Pizzo also noted that the figure of 116 million U.S. chronic pain sufferers is an underestimate, because it excludes children, the military, and residents of nursing homes and chronic care institutions.
For the most part, the training of medical students and medical residents hasn't included management of chronic pain, Pizzo said. Reducing the impact of pain and suffering in this country will require "cultural transformation in how pain is perceived and judged both by people with pain and by the health care providers who help care for them," Pizzo said.