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News Article

Chronic Pain Demands National Attention

By Miriam Bello | Wed, 10/13/2021 - 13:26

Despite being a global heath burden, chronic pain in Mexico still lacks proper attention and awareness to normalize its treatment. National action is being taken but a true impact requires medicine and equipment support.

Chronic pain affects at least 10 percent of the world population. Estimates of chronic pain prevalence are closer to 20-25 percent in some countries and regions. Moreover, one in 10 people develop chronic pain every year. In Latin America between 27 percent and 42 percent of the population suffers from this condition. Chronic pain exerts an enormous personal and economic burden, affecting more than 30 percent of people worldwide, says The Lancet. Unlike acute pain, which carries survival value, chronic pain might be best considered to be a disease, with treatment and psychological implications.

An NCBI study called “Pain as a Global Public Health Priority” suggests that chronic pain should also be corelated to certain social determinants of health, as its affectations to the human body are similar to those of non-communicable diseases. These social determinants include mental and physical stress at work, socioeconomic status, rurality, occupational status, living conditions, race and education. The study also suggests that chronic pain must be fitted into the allostatic load hypothesis. This theory states that persistent exposure to deleterious social and economic conditions perpetually activates the human body's fight-or-flight. The persistent accumulation of stress hormones such as cortisol has been robustly correlated with a number of diseases and negative health outcomes. “Under this theoretical framework, one would predict a direct relationship between increased social disadvantage and either or both the frequency and the severity of chronic pain.”

Despite its relevance to global health, chronic pain attention and management is precarious in Mexico and Latin America. Mexico lacks statistical information to know the impact of chronic pain in the general population. Data related to the elderly population comes from the National Study on Health and Aging in Mexico, which indicates that 41.5 percent of adults over 50 years of age reported suffering pain, being more frequent in women than in men (48.3 percent vs. 33.6 percent). This percentage increases in older adults.

According to João Batista García, President of the Latin American Federation of Associations for the Study of Pain, "the reality in Latin America is the under-treatment of pain. We have few medications available and patients do not have access to adequate treatments. We face an enormous challenge, which deserves a genuine commitment to alleviate the suffering of millions of people living with pain in the region.”

Only this year, Mexico’s General Health Council approved an exhortation to agencies and entities that make up the National Health System to send information on how they treat chronic pain and what palliative they provide to patients. This is the first step to raise awareness on pain management, as “knowledge is limited,” according to Michael Barriga, General Manager and COO of Omron Healthcare. Omron’s products for pain management have demonstrated an immediate improvement in the patient’s discomfort state, but “poor understanding is the main barrier for these types of products is to penetrate the market,” said Barriga.

Miriam Bello Miriam Bello Journalist and Industry Analyst