Significant pain affects many of us. In fact, at one or more points in their lives, about 45% of Americans will experience such persistent pain that they will seek treatment. Pain is the most frequent reason medical care is sought and the number one cause of lost productivity in the workplace, costing employers $80 billion every year. What cannot be measured is the suffering experienced by people in pain.

Because pain is such an overriding issue, Congress declared 2001 to 2010 as the Decade of Pain Control and Research, bringing to the forefront the need to manage this debilitating condition. Significantly, in 2001 the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) mandated that the health care provider of a patient in pain has the obligation to assess it seriously (for example, by asking how severe it is on a scale of 0 to 10) and to create a plan to manage it as safely and effectively as possible.

The standards particularly address how pain can be managed among hospital or other care facility patients who may not be able to communicate well about their levels of pain. The JCAHO standards also focus on pain’s complex nature and suggest that both providers and patients need education to help understand it better.

As physical therapists, we have long been aware that pain can be a major complication in a patient’s life. While it can be a great challenge to treat, pain must be addressed systematically and professionally.  Whenever working with a physical therapist make sure you are constantly informing them of how you are doing in treatment.  Some pain can be part of the treatment process while other pain is an indication that the treatment should be changed or stopped.  Bottom line,  pain is a gauge of progress or lack of progress.  Keep up an ongoing dialogue with your physical therapist or any healthcare provider!