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Pain Management

How COVID-19 Has Impacted People Living With Pain

Penney Cowan

Founder and CEO, American Chronic Pain Association

Right now, we are all living through exceedingly difficult times. We are staying at home, working from home, not visiting with friends or relatives, homeschooling our children, and missing many special events and parties. 

We are basically social and need to be with others. COVID-19 has changed the way we live and how we spend our days. Just about everyone experiences the same frustrations, the same need to return to the workplace or school, see friends, plan events, and always have something to look forward to the next day. 

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Much of what applies to the stay-at-home orders of today is exactly what it’s like when pain invades one’s life. In some sense, today’s scenario is better than living with pain. At least those socially isolating do not have to deal with the pain that causes its own unique set of problems, like difficulty sleeping, limits on movement, access to care, obtaining needed medications, and loss of friends and family. 


Prescription opioids can be addictive and dangerous. CDC’s Rx Awareness campaign tells the stories of people whose lives were impacted by prescription opioids.


The survey says

The American Chronic Pain Association recently did a survey of its members, inquiring about the impact COVID has had on their lives. When it came to asking about the impact COVID-19 had on them, we found the following:

  • Nearly 47 percent have experienced increased pain
  • About half report more stress and 46 percent say they are more anxious
  • More than 40 percent have felt isolated and 36 percent say they are depressed
  • Almost 42 percent report exercising less, 34 percent say they are eating more, and more than a quarter are sleeping more
  • Well over a quarter say they are no longer able to see their healthcare provider
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All of these behaviors that have increased are known to exacerbate pain and erode quality of life, and need to be recognized in our overall understanding of COVID- 19’s impact on people living with pain. It seems COVID has increased the challenges of life even for those who were used to being isolated. 
We often hear our members say, “I want my life back.” Today, I think much of the nation is saying the same.

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