An estimated 12.1 million women age 18 and older reported suffering from chronic pain in 2008 as a result of underlying medical conditions such as chronic fatigue syndrome, endometriosis, fibromyalgia and vulvodynia. Of these women, only 8.7 million reported receiving treatment that year at a total cost of $12.9 billion, according to the latest News and Numbers from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.
Among other findings:
• About 11.2 percent of non-Hispanic white women, 8.3 percent of non-Hispanic black women and 8.2 percent of Hispanic women had one or more of these chronic pain conditions; 8.4 percent, 5.4 percent and 5.5 percent received treatment for them, respectively.
• Of the $12.9 billion in total expenditures, nearly half ($5.7 billion) was spent for treatment in ambulatory settings such as a doctor’s office and another $2.4 billion was spent on prescription medicines.
• Among women age 18 to 64, nearly 15 percent of their medical expenses was paid out of pocket while private insurance paid 68 percent; Medicaid, 10 percent; Medicare, 3 percent; and other sources, 4 percent.
Chronic pain can be mild or excruciating, episodic or continuous, merely
inconvenient or totally incapacitating. An individual may have two or more co-
existing chronic pain conditions. While chronic pain can occur for many
reasons, specific pain conditions related to women can have a significant
impact on their lives. Conditions which affect women can include chronic
fatigue syndrome, endometriosis, fibromyalgia, Interstitial cystitis,
temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ), and vulvodynia.
This Statistical Brief presents estimates based on the Household Component
of the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS-HC) on the use of and
expenditures for ambulatory care and prescribed medications to treat chronic
pain conditions (listed above) among women age 18 and older. All
differences between estimates noted in the text are statistically significant at
the 0.05 level or better.
The data in this AHRQ News and Numbers summary are taken from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS), a detailed source of information on the health services used by Americans, the frequency with which they are used, the cost of those services, and how they are paid. For more information, go to Statistical Brief #342: Health Care Use and Expenditures for Pain Conditions among Women 18 and Older, U.S. Civilian Noninstitutionalized Population, 2008
What Is Vulvodynia?
Vulvodynia, simply put, is chronic vulvar pain without an identifiable cause. The location, constancy and severity of the pain vary among sufferers. Some women experience pain in only one area of the vulva, while others experience pain in multiple areas. The most commonly reported symptom is burning, but women’s descriptions of the pain vary. One woman reported her pain felt like “acid being poured on my skin,” while another described it as “constant knife-like pain.”
What is the temporomandibular joint?
The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is the area directly in front of the ear on either side of the head where the upper jaw (maxilla) and lower jaw (mandible) meet. Within the TMJ, there are moving parts that allow the upper jaw to close on the lower jaw. This joint is a typical sliding “ball and socket” that has a disc sandwiched between it. The TMJ is used throughout the day to move the jaw, especially in biting and chewing, talking, and yawning. It is one of the most frequently used joints of the body.
The temporomandibular joints are complex and are composed of muscles, tendons, and bones. Each component contributes to the smooth operation of the TMJ. When the muscles are relaxed and balanced and both jaw joints open and close comfortably, we are able to talk, chew, or yawn without pain.
We can locate the TMJ by putting a finger on the triangular structure in front of the ear. The finger is moved just slightly forward and pressed firmly while opening the jaw. The motion felt is from the TMJ. We can also feel the joint motion if we put a little finger against the inside front part of the ear canal. These maneuvers can cause considerable discomfort to a person who is experiencing TMJ difficulty, and doctors use them for making the diagnosis.
Source: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ)