Chronic Pain Among Workers Up 40% in 2006

March 1, 2007 ( - Nearly 90% of employees typically show up for work when they are in chronic pain, rather than stay at home, but that doesn't necessarily mean those workers are productive, with 46% of employees with chronic pain saying it often or sometimes affects their ability to perform their job, according to a recent survey.

The survey, sponsored by health care provider PRICARA, Unit of Ortho-McNeil, Inc.and conducted in partnership with the National Pain Foundation (NPF), sought to find out what effects chronic pain – defined as pain that lasts for at least six months – has on the workplace.

The survey showed an increase in chronic pain among workers from 26% in 1996 to 19% in 2006.

A majority of employers (65%) surveyed cited pain-related conditions as a cause of lost productivity in the workplace in 2006, down from 69% that said it hurt productivity in the past. That assessment differs from that of workers asked the same question, with 46% of employees saying their pain often or sometimes affects their ability to perform their job.

Still, 95% of employees with persistent, chronic pain reported that their pain must be moderately severe or very severe to cause them to stay home from work.

Employer Efforts to Address Effects of Chronic Pain

More than two-thirds, or 66%, of employers surveyed now offer worksite wellness programs to employees, compared to 40% in 1996, but only 22% of wellness programs specifically address chronic pain.

“We have seen some improvement in the recognition of pain-related illness in the workplace, and that should be commended,” said Rollin Gallagher, M.D., editor-in-chief of the NPF Web site. “But more U.S. businesses should invest in these wellness programs. Once employees are given the tools to better understand and manage their pain successfully, they can begin to improve many areas of their lives affected by their chronic pain.”

For the survey report go here .