According to the American Pain Foundation, more than 50 million Americans live with chronic pain, yet it is often undertreated, improperly treated, or not treated at all. The group's 2006 patient survey found that 60 percent experienced breakthrough pain -- brief, severe flare-ups of pain in people who are taking pain medicine regularly -- one or more times a day. Disturbingly, more than three out of four people surveyed were plagued by depression and trouble sleeping, and more than 75 percent felt that new options were needed to treat their pain. More than a quarter found that chronic pain made it hard even to drive a car.
If you suffer from this kind of debilitating pain, your determination to obtain relief may be crucial. By taking an active role in your own care, you're more likely to get the relief you need.
The American Pain Foundation has come up with this Pain Care Bill of Rights to encourage patients to understand and stay involved in their treatment plan.
As a person with pain, you have the right to:
- Have your pain taken seriously and to be treated with dignity and respect by doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and other health-care professionals.
- Have your pain thoroughly assessed and promptly treated.
- Be informed by your health-care provider about the possible causes of your pain, and possible treatments, including the benefits, risks, and costs of each.
- Participate actively in decisions about how to manage your pain.
- Have your pain reassessed regularly and your treatment adjusted if your pain has not been eased.
- Be referred to a pain specialist if your pain persists.
- Get clear and prompt answers to your questions, take time to make decisions, and refuse a particular type of treatment if you choose.
More tips on pain
The President's Advisory Commission on Consumer Protection and Quality in the Health Care Industry offers these further tips:
If you are unable to participate fully in your treatment decisions, you have the right to have a family member, guardian, or other person represent you.
Your health-care provider should discuss with you all the risks, benefits, and consequences of your treatment if you have it -- or no treatment, if you don't.
At your doctor's office, you should have enough time during your visit to get answers to your questions and to participate in decisions about your treatment.
According to the American Pain Foundation, doctors have the medical expertise to manage most pain. It may not be possible to rid yourself of it entirely, but with a little persistence, you and your doctor should be able to find ways to ease your pain and make your daily life more comfortable.
American Academy of Pain Management http://www.aapainmanage.org
American Chronic Pain Association http://www.theacpa.org
Pain Care Bill of Rights. American Pain Foundation. http://www.painfoundation.org/Publications/BORenglish.pdf 2007
Finding Help for Your Pain. American Pain Foundation. http://www.painfoundation.org/Publications/FindingCare.pdf
President's Advisory Commission on Consumer Protection and Quality in the Health Care Industry. Appendix A. Consumer Bill of Rights and Responsibilities. http://www.hcqualitycommission.gov/cborr/chap4.html
Voices of Chronic Pain Patient Survey. American Pain Foundation. http://www.painfoundation.org/Voices/VoicesSurveyFactSheet.pdf
American Cancer Society. Breakthrough Cancer Pain: Questions and Answers.