Pain brings thousands of massage clients to massage therapists’ session rooms every day. And whether it is chronic or acute, pain is a major, overlooked medical problem in the U.S., according to leading medical experts.

“This situation requires improved education at multiple levels, stretching from the implementation of new public health campaigns to better training of primary care physicians in pain management,” according to a press release from Stanford University Medical Center.

“The magnitude of pain in the United States is astounding,” write the authors of a perspective published in the New England Journal of Medicine. The article is co-authored by Philip Pizzo, M.D., dean of the Stanford University School of Medicine.

Pizzo chaired a committee that issued an Institute of Medicine report in June that found that more than 116 million Americans have pain that persists for weeks to years with associated financial costs to the country ranging from $560 billion to $635 billion per year.

“During the work of the committee it became clear that one of the major challenges in addressing pain—as a public health problem or as something that impacts the lives of individual adults and children—is the need for improved education,” said Pizzo.

“Sadly, many physicians are viewed as ‘poor listeners’ by people living with chronic pain,” the authors write. “Some physicians over-prescribe medications including opioids, while others refuse to prescribe them at all for fear of violating local or state regulations. … Many people with chronic pain simply don’t know where to go for help.”

Pizzo’s co-author of the perspective is Noreen Clark, Ph.D., professor of health behavior and health education at the University of Michigan.

The authors recommend “expanding and redesigning education programs to transform the understanding of pain, improving education for clinicians, and increasing the number of health professionals with advanced expertise in pain care.”

Related articles:

Research: Chronic Pain Changes Brain’s Response to Acute Pain

Massage Rated as Helpful by Consumers for Back Pain