As many as 40 million people -- almost 1 of every 5 American adults -- suffer from chronic pain, according to a new USA Today/ABC News/Stanford Medical Center poll. Half of the 1,204 respondents cite the source of their discomfort as a medical injury or condition such as joint pain, heart disease or cancer.
"The problem is absolutely enormous," said Russell Portenoy, chairman of pain medicine at New York's Beth Israel Medical Center. "It rivals every serious public-health issue, whether you're talking about heart disease, cancer, obesity or anything else."
Pain medicine isn't recognized as a full-fledged medical specialty on par with cardiology, oncology or &to=http:// english.pravda.ru/main/18/90/360/14659_.html ' target=_blank>anesthesiology, despite the growing pool of desperate patients. At this time, the American Board of Medical Specialties does not recognize pain medicine as a primary medical specialty.
The American Board of Pain Medicine has taken the lead in educating and credentialing pain medicine specialists. So far, the board has certified just 1,700 doctors as pain specialists. That's about one pain specialist for every 23,500 people who need care, informs the Indystar. The psychological effects of pain amplify the trauma, contributing to &to=http:// english.pravda.ru/fun/2002/06/28/31363.html ' target=_blank>depression, anxiety, sleeplessness and suicide. "Many people in severe pain from terminal illness fear their pain more than they fear death," says Scott Fishman, chief of pain medicine at the University of California-Davis.
Despite the burden that pain imposes on society, pain relief has long been a stepchild of medicine. Many pain medications derive from aspirin and opium, whose origins date back 2,000 years.