• Four out of five Americans will suffer from disabling back pain during their lifetimes, according to the National Institutes of Health.
  • Americans spend $86 billion a year on spine treatments (up 65% in a decade), about the same as we spend treating cancer, according to a major study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, yet our backs are not getting better. The percentage of back pain suffers has increased and more of them are reporting physical, social and work limitations. (JAMA – February 13, 2008)
  • Americans spent $20 billion on drugs for back and neck pain in 2005, a 171 percent increase from 1997, while expenditures for narcotic pain relievers increased 423%. (JAMA – February 13, 2008)
  • The proportion of men and women in North Carolina suffering from impairing low back pain has more than doubled since the 1990s, according to a new University of North Carolina medical school study, which strongly suggested that the findings reflect a nationwide trend.
    “Considering the social and economic costs of chronic low back pain, these results are alarming,” said the study’s lead author. The study was published in the February 9 Archives of Internal Medicine. (HealthDay News on Medline Plus – February 10, 2009)
  • According to the National Health Interview Survey, the percentage of people with lower back pain and neck pain which could cause impairment more than doubled between 1997 and 2006. (National Center for Health Statistics)
  • More than 25% of American men and women experience daily pain and pain is estimated to cost the economy over $60 billion a year in lost productivity, according to a Stony Brook (NY) University Medical Center random survey conducted among nearly 4,000 respondents.
    (The Lancet – May 3, 2008)
  • Studies show that chronic pain causes the brain to atrophy. It actually shrinks the brain by as much as 11 percent, equal to the amount of gray matter (the region of the brain that processes information and memory) lost during 10 to 20 years of aging, according to a Northwestern University medical school study.
    Researchers at the school found that back pain lasting six months or longer results in abnormal brain chemistry, reflected in chemical changes in the area of the brain important in social behavior and decision making. (The Journal of Neuroscience – November 23, 2004)
  • More than half of American adults suffered from one or more of 30 conditions that kept them from their typical functions and activities in the workplace or at home for an average of 32.1 days a year, according to a survey analyzed by Harvard Medical School researchers.
    That translates into a total of 3.6 billion days a year, with mental disorders accounting for 1.3 billion days lost. Chronic back and neck pain led to the most days of disability (1.2 billion), followed by major depression (387 million), the researchers found. (Boston Globe – Oct. 1, 2007)
  • Chronic pain can clinically impair your memory and concentration, according to a study conducted at the University of Alberta. (ScienceDaily – May 18, 2007)
  • An estimated 1.2 million spinal surgeries are performed in the U.S. each year, and, according to the National Center for Health Statistics, more than 300,000 of them are spinal fusions, at an average cost of approximately $60,000 each.
  • The spinal products industry is experiencing meteoric growth. Worldwide sales went from less than $100 million in 1990 to $3.5 billion in 2004 and more than $6 billion in 2007. (MedicalDeviceLink.com)
  • Recent studies show that the failure rate for back surgeries is extremely high (50% in some studies), prompting a new diagnostic category for the failures: Failed Back Syndrome, the only such diagnosis in medicine.

2006 Voices of Chronic Pain

This survey of chronic pain sufferers who take opoids was conducted in 2006 for the American Pain Foundation

Control Over Chronic Pain

  • More than half of respondents (51%) felt they had little or no control over their pain.
  • Six out of ten patients (60%) said they experience breakthrough pain one or more times daily, severely impacting their quality of life and overall well-being.

Impact on Quality of Life

  • Almost two-thirds (59%) reported an impact on their overall enjoyment of life.
  • More than three quarters of patients (77%) reported feeling depressed.
  • 70% said they have trouble concentrating.
  • 74% said their energy level is impacted by their pain.
  • 86% reported an inability to sleep well.

Impact on Day-to-Day Life

  • More than half (52%) said their chronic pain has put a strain on relationships with family and friends.
  • Nearly 70% said their pain has a great deal of impact on their work.
  • 50% have lost a job due to their chronic pain.
  • More than a quarter (27%) said chronic pain impacts their ability to drive a car.

This survey was conducted by ABC News, USA Today and the Stanford University Medical Center (2005):

Key Findings

  • Excluding minor annoyances, just under half of adults have experienced pain the last two weeks, and nearly four in 10 do so on a regular basis.
  • Six in 10 Americans rate their last experience with pain as moderate or worse, and for about two in 10 – about 40 million individuals – it was severe.
  • Nineteen percent suffer chronic pain, meaning ongoing pain that’s lasted three months
    or more
  • About four in 10 Americans say pain interferes with their mood, activities, sleep, ability to
    work or enjoyment of life.
  • Sixty-three percent of Americans have spoken with a doctor or other medical professional about their pain. While nine in 10 say their doctor understood the problem, many fewer, 59%, say they got a great deal or good amount of .

Chronic/Severe Pain

  • Problems peak in the chronic, severe and frequent pain populations. People in these high-pain groups are vastly more likely than others to report negative impacts of pain on their lives, and much less likely to feel in control of their pain. (These hold true even when controlled for age.)


  • A quarter of Americans say their last pain experience was with back pain, making it far and away the leading area of pain, followed by pain in the knee (12%), headaches or migraine (9%), and shoulder and leg pain (7% each.) Together these account for 60 % of all pain by location.
  • Back pain is No. 1 across most demographic groups, with the notable exception of women under age 50. It peaks among men (30% say their last pain experience was back pain, compared with 20% of women), and particularly among men age 30-49, who may run the dual risk of being a bit older but still quite active. Back pain is the most-cited pain across all pain groups, peaking slightly among chronic pain sufferers.