Feature Archive

The Cost of Pain

Loss of productive work time? $61.2 billion. Personal suffering? Enormous.

By R. Morgan Griffin
WebMD Feature

Reviewed By Charlotte Grayson

How much does a bad back cost?

Maybe it's just $10 a month for a new bottle of Advil? But what about your chiropractor bills? What about the housekeeper you had to hire to do the housework that you can't do? What about that pricey ergonomic chair? Or what if you need to cut down on the hours you work, or quit your job altogether? What if you lose your insurance as a result?

The costs of pain can be enormous, and they spill out well beyond what you spend at the drugstore. "If you have pain all the time, it gets into every nook and cranny of your life," says Sean Sullivan, CEO of Institute for Health Productivity Management. "It's about as pervasive as something can get."

Big and small, those costs -- financial and emotional, obvious and hidden -- can add up. And you're not the only one footing the bill: your spouse, your family, and your employer are all affected. That's all from one achy back. Now imagine a nation's worth of achy backs -- and arthritis pain, and migraines, and other types of pain. How much does all that pain cost us as a society?

It's a tough question to answer. But because pain is emerging as a serious health problem in the U.S., it's one that more and more researchers are trying to answer.