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Millions of people in pain cost billions of dollars in medical care and lost productivity in the United States each year. Pain is the single most common reason that people seek medical care. We have known for three decades how to prevent or treat most pain, yet pain remains a major complication of many disease states and procedures. Unnecessary pain is widely experienced by patients in all settings, across age groups, and across race, gender, and culture. 90% of cancer-related pain can be controlled with readily available medications. An even greater percentage of postoperative pain can also be well controlled, permitting faster recovery and earlier discharge from the hospital.

Noncancer-related chronic pain:
Chronic noncancer-related pain remains difficult to diagnose and to treat. Some people will have pain for years, even for the rest of their lives. "Difficult to treat" does not mean untreatable. There may be combinations of medications and other treatments that will moderate some of the pain. People with chronic pain require medical and emotional support and rehabilitation to alleviate pain to the extent possible, adjust to this difficult reality in their lives, and to regain as much healthy functioning as possible. Much chronic pain is the result of poorly understood malfunctioning of the parts of the nervous system that either transmit or recognize pain. When these malfunctions occur, the pain has become the disease long after the original injury has healed. Considerable research is underway to understand and find more effective treatments for chronic pain.

There is a complex interaction of factors that create significant barriers to pain relief in spite of our ability to adequately treat most pain. MGH Cares about Pain Relief is an MGH-wide initiative to raise consciousness about the problem of pain and to provide information and education about pain for patients and their families as well as for professionals. The Pain Relief initiative was originally in funded 1999 by a grant from the Mayday Fund. In 2003 it became part of Patient Care Services. The Mission of MGH Cares About Pain Relief is to support all Massachusetts General Hospital educational, clinical, and research programs related to pain. We support the Hospital's Mission by providing educational programs and resource assistance to clinical educators, practicing clinicians, administrators, and patients and their families.

Examples of activities of MGH Cares about Pain Relief include:

  • Production of a guide for patients and families
  • Organizing of an annual 2-day "Pain Relief Champions" course for medical professionals
  • Representing the initiative on MGH's Pain Task Force
  • Promulgating a Pledge to Patients with Pain
  • Distribution to MGH clinicians of an electronic newsletter, Pain Relief Connection
  • Collaborating with hospital committees and other groups on projects aimed at improving the care of patients in pain
  • Consulting with students and clinicians on quality, research, or other projects on patient care units


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