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Chronic pain on
the rise in U.S. workplace

Chronic pain on
the rise in U.S. workplace

Chronic, persistent pain affects 26% of full-time U.S. workers, up from 19% a decade ago, according to a national survey released Tuesday. Today, 89% of those with chronic pain report to work, even when that will have a negative impact on their work--a growing trend known as presenteeism. The same percentage reported that they felt pain at work often or sometimes. But 95% said their pain had to be moderately or very severe to warrant calling in sick.

"Chronic pain appears to be increasing in prevalence among U.S. workers as Americans age and lead more sedentary lifestyles," said Rollin Gallagher, MD, chief editor of the Web site for the National Pain Foundation ( ) in a release. The NPF partnered with Harris Interactive to complete the 2006 "Pain in the Workplace" survey. "This survey indicates that employees with chronic pain must become their own advocates, understand the impact of their chronic pain, and work with their health care provider to identify appropriate treatment options," Gallagher said.

On a positive note, 66% of employers surveyed now offer workplace wellness programs to employees, compared with 40% in 1996. However, only 22% of wellness programs include a component about preventing or living with chronic pain conditions.

"We have seen some improvement in the recognition of pain-related illness in the workplace, and that should be commended," said Gallagher. "But more U.S. businesses should invest in these wellness programs. Once employees are given the tools to better understand and manage their pain successfully, they can begin to improve many areas of their lives affected by their chronic pain." (The Advocate)

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