Living with pain

An estimated 100 million American adults live with chronic pain.

That’s more than the total number of Americans living with diabetes, heart disease and cancer—combined. (And that number doesn’t reflect the number of children living with chronic pain!) Of the 100 million individuals with chronic pain nationwide, nearly 40 million have severe pain.

DEFINITION: Chronic pain is often defined as pain lasting longer than three to six months or as pain that persists beyond the time it typically should take to heal. It is the opposite of acute pain, which is temporary, specific, and treatable.

TYPES: Chronic pain can take many forms. It can be mild or severe; episodic or continuous; annoying or disabling; short-term (several years) or lifelong. It can occur in nearly any part of the body and can cause a wide range of sensations, from aching to burning. It can result from an ongoing injury or a misfiring nervous system, even after an injury has healed. To learn more about a specific pain condition, visit

IMPACT: Understandably, chronic pain can affect quality of life and productivity. It may be accompanied by fatigue, insomnia, anxiety, depression, and other problems. The economic impact of chronic pain is staggering. In 2010 dollars, the cost of chronic pain—including the cost of treatment and lost productivity—was estimated at nearly $635 billion.[1]

OUTLOOK: While it is unlikely that any one treatment will resolve chronic pain, a combination of therapies can allow an individual with chronic pain to live a normal, productive life. Furthermore, scientists are constantly making major advances that will undoubtedly lead to more and better treatments.


Learn more about pain through the sections below.

Causes & diagnosis



Complementary therapy




Be sure to also explore U.S. Pain’s list of resources!