chronic pain is not systematically addressed, and the health and quality of life of large numbers of people are severely impaired.

Improving care for people with acute or chronic pain requires broad improvements in education, especially with regard to

  • the multiple causes and effects of pain,
  • the range of treatments available to help people obtain relief, and
  • the need to consider chronic pain as a biopsychosocial disorder.

Education efforts should be directed to people with pain, the general public, and health professionals. Each of these audiences has distinct needs for greater knowledge, and each presents its own education challenges. In addition, education programs need to be high quality and evidence based, and in their planning draw on such sources as the successful examples highlighted in this chapter, inasmuch as the history of both patient and public education efforts is littered with failed, ineffective, and poorly implemented programs.


I had to relearn how to live.

Gwenn Herman, Pain Connection-Chronic Pain Outreach Center, Inc.2

People with acute or chronic pain often are unaware of their treatment options or may hold inaccurate or value-laden beliefs about pain that obstruct the path to treatment and relief (Chapter 3). They deserve information that can help them understand and address their condition.

The optimal timing, content, and goals of patient education will vary depending upon the type of pain (acute or chronic), the availability and effectiveness of treatment, and the educational and literacy levels of the patient. Consider the case of acute pain. Although there are only limited opportunities to provide effective pain education to patients who experience unanticipated pain as a result of an injury or medical emergency, acute pain is an appropriate target of patient education. For example, the fear of pain or the experience of poorly controlled pain with outpatient procedures can affect a person’s willingness to undergo needed medical or dental treatment. Education about the likelihood of pain, including its possible magnitude, is therefore important to informed decision making, includ-


2 Quotation from testimony to the committee, November 2010.

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