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To: All members, U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives

Re: Pain Awareness Month

Dear Member of Congress:

I am writing to you regarding an issue that affects the lives of millions of Americans every day. From veterans and people living with life-threatening illnesses to the small business owner down the street, chronic pain knows no bounds and leaves no demographic untouched. Yet little is understood about this illness.

Chronic pain is pain that continues a month or more beyond the usual recovery period for an injury or illness or that goes on for months or years due to a chronic condition. According to the Institute of Medicine’s 2011 “Relieving Pain in America” report, an estimated 100 million people in the United States are burdened with chronic pain. Despite this fact, far too little is understood about chronic pain and pain management.  As September marks “Pain Awareness Month” I am asking for more research and education of chronic pain at all levels.

Chronic pain is rapidly becoming a national health crisis. It is estimated that the medical costs of pain care and the economic costs related to disability days and lost wages and productivity amount to at least $560 billion to $635 billion annually. But it doesn’t need to be this way.  Researchers have and continue to make great strides and now more than ever, doctors and nurses are armed with the tools necessary to manage and treat pain. Yet, despite this progress, there is still a stigma attached to some of the treatment options. There is no question, prescription drug abuse is a serious problem and we support efforts to shut down “pill mills” and to restrict access to prescription medications only to those who legitimately need them. But we must also ensure these efforts do not create an unnecessary burden for legitimate pain sufferers who depend on access to the medication their physician appropriately prescribes them.

I believe a balanced approach is needed to ensure a person suffering from pain has access to the appropriate options and treatments necessary to help improve their quality of life. Today, there are a variety of methods including rehabilitative and physical therapy, behavioral interventions and medications. For many, effective treatment means the difference between not being able to get out of bed in the morning and leading normal, productive lives.

During this month, I ask that you celebrate those leading normal lives despite great adversity and continue the much-needed conversation with researchers, medical experts, patients, and your fellow policymakers to further understanding into this illness in the hopes that one day no one needs to suffer from chronic pain.  Thank you for your leadership and your support for over 100 million Americans living with chronic pain.