The American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) is asking patients and healthcare providers alike to help stop chronic pain from being insufficiently treated by improving patient-provider communication, and by working to strengthen awareness and advocacy regarding this problem.
Chronic pain is a condition in which signals of pain remain active in the patient’s nervous system for months or even years. The pain may originate from trauma or an infection, or it can be caused by prior illnesses, including cancer, digestive diseases, and rheumatoid arthritis.
September is the National Pain Awareness Month, and the AANP wants to raise awareness about the needs of people living with constant pain. The association recommends that patients keep a daily record of how they are feeling, and of their daily pain symptoms and sleep patterns, so they can share accurate details with their healthcare providers during visits.
“Patients living with acute and chronic pain need prompt and reliable access to their health care provider of choice and effective pain relief,” Dr. Cindy Cooke, DNP, FNP-C, FAANP, AANP’s president, said in a press release. “National Pain Awareness Month serves as a reminder that nearly one-third of Americans suffer daily from the debilitating condition of chronic pain.”
According to the AANP, the roughly 222,000 nurse practitioners (NPs) in the U.S. receive over 870 million patient visits every year. They often diagnose and treat chronic pain, and are knowledgeable about the therapies and treatments specific to each patient and their conditions. The AANP also pledges NPs to be especially aware of symptoms of undertreated chronic pain.
“NPs are trained to administer safe and responsible treatment plans on behalf of our patients. It’s important that we treat people with pain without stigma and ensure that they receive the care, treatment and compassion they deserve,” said Cooke.
For patients, the Association notes that communicating the frequency with which they feel pain, and the impact of this pain on their daily lives, as well as having enough time during visits with a doctor or NP to address these issues, is important to the proper care and management of chronic pain.
It is estimated that over 100 million people in the U.S. live with chronic pain, and the societal burden now exceeds $500,000 billion each year, including direct healthcare costs and indirect lost productivity, the association said.