Insight Pain Management – We all experience pain at some point in our lives. Whether it’s a minor burn or a sprained ankle, most pain is nothing more than a short-lived inconvenience that eventually goes away with the right treatment. But for the one in five Americans who experience chronic pain, the effects can take a considerable toll on all aspects of life, including job performance and quality of life in the workplace. According to recent research from the United States Bone and Joint Initiative, back pain alone accounts for more than 264 million lost work days each year, which is about two work days for every full-time worker in the country. Although there is no one size fits all approach to addressing every instance of chronic pain, raising awareness about the importance of early intervention and identifying symptoms can lead to significant improvements in quality of life. Here are the types of chronic pain that can affect daily life, as well as seven links between chronic pain and work productivity.

What Types OF Chronic Pain Affect Productivity?

Chronic pain is defined as persistent pain that lasts three months or longer and interferes with daily life. According to research published in a recent National Health Survey, 20.4% of adults experience chronic pain, and about one-third of these adults experience pain that limits their daily activities. Some of the most common causes of chronic pain include:

What Types of Chronic Pain Affect Productivity?

  • Low Back Pain
  • Arthritis
  • Headache
  • Cancer Pain
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Neuralgias & Neuropathy

It is important to remember that everyone’s pain is different and it can often be difficult to explain how pain is impacting your life. Chronic pain has many causes, including injuries, illnesses, and physical or emotional stresses. The CDC has many excellent resources on how to talk to your doctor about pain so you can find the best treatments for your condition.

The Impacts OF Chronic Pain On Quality OF Life At Work

Loss of Motivation & Productivity

When you think of low productivity or lack of motivation in the workplace, chronic pain is probably not one of the top factors that come to mind. However, a recent study found that the leading cause of low productivity in the workplace is low back pain, which results in almost 17 minutes of work loss each day. Anyone dealing with persistent pain understands how difficult it can be to focus on other tasks when you are trying to alleviate your symptoms and feel well. This is due to the way our neurons respond to dopamine, a chemical in the brain responsible for motivation. Our bodies are much less likely to produce excitatory signals when we’re experiencing pain.

Loss of Motivation & Productivity

Impaired Thoughts & Decision-Making

Similar to how pain impacts motivation and productivity, it can also impair our ability to think clearly and make decisions at work. In a recent study in the journal PAIN, researchers investigated how pain impacts cognitive flexibility, which is the ability for the brain to learn new information. They determined that the ability to adapt to changing situations, including being flexible with learning, may be hindered with chronic pain.

People in Pain Miss More Work

One of the biggest professional setbacks for people experiencing chronic pain is the number of missed work days due to appointments, surgeries, and rest. A study published by Brigham and Women’s Hospital found that employees with chronic pain missed 10.3 workdays, versus 2.8 workdays for people without chronic pain. People with a chronic pain condition also face lower vocational fulfillment and feelings of ostracization in the workplace, as well as obstacles returning to work after a period of absence or finding new employment.

Managing Chronic Pain is Costly

Managing Chronic Pain is Costly

Managing chronic pain is also very expensive, even for people with good employer healthcare plans and paid sick leave. Depending on your condition and treatments, as well as coverage and copays, it is not uncommon to see significant out-of-pocket costs. In 2021, U.S. healthcare spending grew to $4.3 trillion, which is about $12,900 per person. About half of U.S. adults say they have difficulty affording healthcare costs, with 41% reporting they have some amount of healthcare debt. One of the best ways you can avoid costly healthcare expenses is to prioritize preventive care. Annual health screenings and wellness visits with your primary care physician will allow you to catch underlying health issues before they become a bigger problem and minimize the progression of chronic conditions.

Pain Can Lead to Sleep Deprivation

Sleep is an essential but often overlooked aspect of our overall health and well-being. Not only does sleep affect our mental and physical function, but it is also an essential part of the body’s ability to build immunity and fight chronic disease. According to the Sleep Foundation, as many as 80% of people with chronic pain report ongoing sleep difficulties, which often leads to worse symptoms the next day and greater risk for developing further chronic pain.

Pain Can Lead to Sleep Deprivation

The Connection Between Pain & Mental Health

Chronic pain can also take a toll on your mental and behavioural health. People living with persistent pain conditions are four times more likely to develop mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, and panic disorders. Chronic pain also increases your risk for substance abuse and suicide. All people living with chronic pain need emotional support. Taking action by talking to your doctor or mental healthcare provider, modifying your lifestyle to avoid stresses and triggers, and engaging in exercise or mind-body techniques like meditation are all excellent ways to manage chronic pain-related mental health issues.

Pain Affects Personal & Professional Relationships

People with chronic pain conditions frequently experience additional pressures to maintain personal and professional relationships. Chronic symptoms can be tiring, and time-consuming, and lead to loneliness when you are unable to participate in activities with friends and colleagues. Social isolation due to chronic pain can also limit opportunities for networking and building your career. It can be a challenge for other people to understand what you are experiencing, so communication is key to building and maintaining relationships. If you are comfortable, be open with your colleagues about the difficulties you are experiencing and be clear about your needs. It may take more effort, but studies show that maintaining personal and professional relationships while living with chronic pain is essential to living a longer, happier life.

Pain Affects Personal & Professional Relationships

Chronic pain is a complex challenge for millions of employers and employees that leads to more than just a couple missed days of work. From loss of motivation and productivity to the impact on professional relationships and finances, the physical, emotional, and social consequences of chronic pain are widespread. However, there are many safe and effective resources available to help people live the best life possible. If chronic pain has become part of your daily life and is affecting you personally and professionally, you can learn more about the pain treatments available by talking to a pain management specialist at Insight. Contact us today at 810-732-8336 to schedule an appointment.

 Frequently Asked Questions

How can you manage chronic pain without surgery?

Q1: How can you manage chronic pain without surgery?

A: Treatments for chronic pain are diverse and include many nonsurgical alternatives. Depending on your condition, over the counter and prescription medications, physical therapy, chiropractic care, acupuncture, and massage therapy may be effective.

Q2: Can chronic pain be cured?

A: Pain isn’t always curable. However, most chronic pain can be treated successfully by determining the underlying cause and developing an effective treatment plan that includes symptom relief and support.

Q3: Is it possible to experience chronic pain after recovering from an illness or surgery?

A: Yes. Many people experience chronic pain from an illness or injury long after recovering. This can happen for a number of reasons, including nerve damage and infections that develop after you heal.