woman lying on couch

Survey: Pain Perceptions and Disability

During the week of December 2nd, Disability Researchers conducted a nationwide survey of pain perceptions and disability. A total of 343 respondents participated in the online survey. Of the respondents, 106 disabled and 237 non-disabled people answered.

Not surprisingly, many more disabled individuals (77.4%) than non-disabled individuals (36.3%) indicated that they experienced chronic pain. A significantly higher percentage of disabled (45.3%) individuals stated their pain was either extremely or very painful. Only 8.4% of the non-disabled said the same.

Pain Management

Only slightly higher percentages of the disabled used opiate-based painkillers (17.0% vs. 3.8%) or music therapy (13.2% vs. 3.8%). Meanwhile, more (26.6%) non-disabled respondents did not use any type of pain relief compared to their disabled counterparts (6.6%). These are the only significant differences.

Both disabled and non-disabled people used the top four treatments about equally. In order of popularity, they are:

  1. Ibuprofen
  2. Heat and Cold
  3. Acetaminophen
  4. Exercise

Only 31 percent of the disabled found their pain relief methods to be extremely or very effective. However, 35.5 percent of the non-disabled did. The highest percentages of respondents found their pain relief methods to be only somewhat or not so effective (62.3% of the disabled and 51.3% of the non-disabled).

Pain and Disability

All in all, this survey suggests that pain relief methods could use improvement. Other pain relief methods not mentioned often in the survey include curcumin, yoga, biofeedback, acupuncture, electrical muscle stimulation, and physical or occupational therapy. Unfortunately, I was unable to include all the various methods of pain relief in my brief survey. I hope to have a more inclusive survey later.

However, I did want to briefly mention one new therapeutic method. It has implications for those who suffer severe acute or chronic pain and have yet to find suitable relief. Virtual Reality Therapy may provide an answer, though not a perfect one. Jane E. Brody, in an article in the New York Times’ “The New Medicine,” describes this therapy as “a hack that occupies the brain so fully that it has no room to process pain sensations at the same time.”

The major pitfall at this time is that once you turn off the virtual reality, the pain returns. Of course, this isn’t bad if the major pain only occurs while you are on virtual reality therapy. For example, if you are having a root canal procedure or debridement of burns, it may be extremely effective. This is worth exploring in the future.


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