What does the month of September mean to you?
For many, September marks the end of summer. Parents delight in having a quiet house again as the kids head off to school. Cooler weather arrives and leaves begin to take on their fall colors. And, if you’re a sports fan, there’s a banquet of football and baseball pennant races to choose from on TV. It’s a great time of year.
September is also National Pain Awareness Month, a time when dozens of organizations try to raise awareness about the scourge of chronic pain. Regular readers of American News Report know that’s a year-round effort for us — there’s a large audience we’re trying to reach. The Institute of Medicine estimates that 100 million Americans suffer from chronic pain, which is generally defined as persistent pain that lasts for more than six months.
100 million is a lot of people! While some question the accuracy of that number, there is no disputing that chronic pain takes a toll on many of us. Even if you don’t feel chronic pain, there’s a good chance you have a loved one, friend, neighbor or co-worker who does.
Fittingly, the first week of National Pain Awareness month brings us PAINWeek, the nation’s largest conference for “frontline practitioners” in the field of pain management. Over a thousand physicians, nurses, dentists, pharmacists, psychiatrists and other health care providers are expected at PAINWeek, September 5-8 at the Cosmopolitan hotel in Las Vegas.
There to greet them will be hundreds of salesmen, exhibitors, researchers and representatives of pharmaceutical companies, device makers and drug screening laboratories – all of them with something to sell. Chronic pain, as you might guess, is a big business.
I’ll be there too – along with many of my colleagues in the health care media – looking for news about the latest research, drugs and devices that help manage pain.
On the conference schedule are many of the issues and controversies we’ve covered on American News Report, including opioid addiction, medical marijuana, the government crackdown on pill mills, and the highly competitive and sometimes cutthroat business of urine drug screening.
We’ll also be looking for stories about new drug treatments, fibromyalgia, spinal cord stimulation, diabetic peripheral neuropathy, the link between pain and obesity, and alternative therapies that manage pain without drugs.
Notably lacking from the PAINWeek conference schedule, in my opinion, are patients. Where are they? 100 million Americans suffer from chronic pain and they couldn’t find any patients to help educate health care providers about the issues people in pain deal with every day?
You can read about them here. Our columnists, Mark Maginn and Mary Maston, have written extensively about the difficulties pain patients face finding doctors to treat them or even just getting their prescriptions filled. In Florida, it’s become known as the “pharmacy crawl.”
These are challenging times for chronic pain patients and practitioners of pain management. It’s probably not what the American Chronic Pain Association imagined in 2001 when it organized the first National Pain Awareness Month.
But it’s a good way to draw attention to a critical health care issue.