The Ministry of Lisa Copen

Lisa Copen, Founder of Rest Ministries which serves the chronically ill, shares about mothering, illness, ministry and more.

Are chronic pain or illness statistics comforting or not?

The article below on chronic illness and chronic pain caught my attention, because it was posted on a web site out of India. Even in India there is some kind of interest about the prevalence of chronic pain and chronic illness here in the USA. But do the constant statistics encourage your or discourage you? See my comments below.

Low back pain is among the most common complaints, along with migraine or severe headache, and joint pain, aching or stiffness. The knee is the joint that causes the most pain according to the report. Hospitalization rates for knee replacement procedures rose nearly 90 percent between 1992-93 and 2003-04 among those 65 and older.

Some of the other pain statistics include:

* One-fifth of adults 65 years and older said they had experienced pain in the past month that persisted for more than 24 hours.

* Almost three-fifths of adults 65 and older with pain said it had lasted for one year or more.

* More than one-quarter of adults interviewed said they had experienced low back pain in the past three months.

* Fifteen percent of adults experienced migraine or severe headache in the past three months. Adults ages 18-44 were almost three times as likely as adults 65 and older to report migraines or severe headaches.

* Reports of severe joint pain increased with age, and women reported severely painful joints more often than men (10 percent versus 7 percent).

* Between the periods 1988-94 and 1999-2002, the percentage of adults who took a narcotic drug to alleviate pain in the past month rose from 3.2 percent to 4.2 percent.


So, was that reading a help or a hinder?
Statistics about chronic illnes and pain can have it’s benefits:

  1. It educates the public about how many people live with chroic illness or pain. I don’t know if I would copy this and hand it out to your guests on Thanksgiving Day, but still, the more attention the prevalance of pain gets, the better our friends will understand it’s not all in our head..
  2. It reminds people that most chronic pain is invisible, and that there are millions who live each day with invisible illness. So for that radio announcer who made fun of National Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness Week (the actual idea of the week, not the long name it has)
  3. It validates that we–who live with chronic pain–are not a "niche" group of people, we are nearly half the society (1 in 2 live with chronic illness. According to the article above 1 in 4 are in chronic pain.) Making accommodations for us occasionally (like providing more benches along those long park sidewalks or bringing us bread and water at a restaurant soon so we can take a few pills) is not only a kind thing to do, but a good marketing strategy for business to build good consumer relations.
  4. And let’s call ourselves on this: It is a good reminder to those of us with the "grumps" that we need to stick a smile on our face and get out of the house. Let’s face it, the person who just said, "Would you like help to the car with your groceries?" may actually be in chronic pain himself (and not necessarily from a football injury).

But reading articles like this can also be discouraging:

  1. It reminds us that chronic pain and chronic illnes is here to stay. In a world overflowing with research capabilities and thousands of drugs on the market, the pain that hurt in 1970 still hurts in 2006.
  2. If we aren’t yet 65, the thought that we will likely be in MORE chronic pain than they we are now can seem a bit overwhelming.

Psalm 42:5 says, "Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God." When we read the many statistics about chronic illness, when we read the discliamer that comes with our medications that tell us about all the potential side effects, when we think about how our body will be in ten years–we cannot think about the "reality" of the statistics when it comes to guarding our hearts. There are time we need to make decisions and statistics can be a valueable tool, but they are not something to mediate on our to base our goals upon.

When a friend called me right after her son was diagnosed with Autism, she asked how to do the research she needed to find out more about her son’s illness. My advice? Read about it, get online and read what you need to know to feel more confident about this path you’re now on. But know when to stop. You can always go back and look up more information later when it’s needed, but don’t read it all or it will worry you unneccessarily.

I hope this encourages you a bit and I look forward to your comments!


Pain :: Americans suffer from long term chronic pain

One in four U.S. adults say they suffered a day-long bout of pain in the past month, and one in 10 say the pain lasted a year or more, according to the government’s annual, comprehensive report of Americans’ health, Health United States, 2006, released today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Center for Health Statistics.


  Nickie wrote @

I personally only find the statistics helpful as reminders that I’m not alone, and I’m grateful that maybe they will help someone who hasn’t gotten treatment to seek it out. But if I’m going to read about chronic pain, I’d prefer to read uplifting or encouraging personal stories, or new treatment options. Ideally, statistics are good for starting discussions, but they don’t do much more for me.

  Diane TN wrote @

The one thing I noticed in a quick reading of the article is the focus seemed to be on only problems that result from either stress or improper care of ourselves. I didn’t see any mention of chronic pain as a result of disease. I’m not saying that people who have migraines or back pain are causing them, but a lot of the medical community seem to insinuate that with patients.
Diane TN

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