Study: 1 In 10 Lives With Pain

A new CBS News/Prevention magazine poll reveals that 12 percent of Americans have been diagnosed with chronic pain. And more than half described their pain as unbearable.

Chronic pain is defined as pain that persists for more than three months.
To make matters worse, getting relief from that pain can be an uphill battle.

For Ray Beauvais, severe back pain has been his fact of life since an injury more than 20 years ago, reports The Early Show medical correspondent Dr. Emily Senay. He is bedridden for up to 18 hours a day.

"It's constant, it really doesn't go away," says Beauvais. "And, it increases the more I stand up."

Pain specialist Dr. Isaiah Florence of Englewood Hospital in New Jersey knows the importance of helping Ray and his wife, Norma, find the right treatments for their pain.

"People eventually will become depressed," says Dr. Florence. "They will have decreased functioning capability, they might lose muscle tone from lying in bed all day, if they're working people, there's a great amount of lost work time and earning capability."

Ray is taking the narcotic Oxycontin with some success. Norma got rid of her back pain with a series of injections targeting sensory nerves.

"Now, I don't have constant pain like I did originally," says Norma. "In the morning, when I first wake up and get out of bed and straighten up and walk a little, it hurts. But otherwise, it's very good."

But getting pain relief is not always easy. Fears about drug addiction make some doctors reluctant to prescribe powerful narcotics, even for debilitating pain like Ray's.

"Taking Oxycontin today, you're afraid to even tell anybody about it. In fact, the doctors, at least the regular doctors, are afraid to prescribe it," says Ray. " I really need the stuff and sometimes you're made to feel guilty for asking for pain medication."

Dr. Isaiah Florence, a pain specialist, says a lot of patients are suffering pain and doctors cannot ignore the fact that they have pain.

There are more doctors trying to make pain assessment routine all across the health care field, and treat it like a vital sign, along with the blood pressure and body temperature.

The most common pain is back and neck pain, followed by joint pain, migraines and stomach pain or ulcer.

Dr. Senay says if you're suffering from chronic pain, you should seek help in determining the source of the pain and an appropriate treatment.

The CBS News/Prevention magazine poll found that people got a lot of relief from both over-the-counter medicine and prescription medications.

The poll showed that people are generally open-minded about newer alternatives to drug therapy. Three-quarters of Americans believe alternative therapies such as herbal remedies, acupuncture, meditation or massage would be effective. Almost half of pain sufferers reported that exercise and physical therapy provided relief.

Many people said that over-the-counter drugs were effective. For very severe cases, there are implantable devices to deliver drugs, direct injections to deaden nerves or even the use of heat to destroy pain-causing nerves.

The poll also found that women are more likely then men to experience chronic and severe pain. They are more prone to migraine and severe headache pain. Nearly half of women under age 50 also reported suffering menstrual or other pelvic pain. But both men and women agreed that women are better at dealing with pain than men.

The people most prone to pain are 50 or older. They are more likely to have been diagnosed with chronic pain and to suffer unbearable pain. Joint pain or arthritis was the most common complaint.