Various Strategies Used by U.S. Adults to Manage Chronic Pain

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Cornelius B. Groenewald, M.B., Ch.B., from the Seattle Children's Research Institute, and colleagues examined the use of pain management techniques for chronic pain among adults using data from the 2019 National Health Interview Survey. Data were included for 31,916 participants (64 percent female).

The researchers found that 54.7 percent of adults with chronic pain only used nonopioid pain management techniques, while 10.7, 4.4, and 30.2 percent used both opioids and nonopioid techniques, used opioids only, and did not report any pain management techniques during the past three months. Complementary therapies represented the most commonly used nonopioid pain management technique and were used by 35.4 percent of participants, followed by physical, occupational, or rehabilitative therapies, which were used by 18.8 percent. Psychological or psychotherapeutic interventions were only used by 3.8 percent. Self-management programs and chronic pain peer support groups were used by 5.1 and 1.8 percent, respectively. Overall, 39.1 percent of adults reported using pain approaches not captured in this data set. Prescription opioid use was more common among older adults and among women versus men.

"Nonpharmacologic and nonopioid pharmacologic therapies are preferred treatments for chronic pain, and it is encouraging to note that most adults with chronic pain use a combination of various nonopioid modalities for treatment," the authors write.

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