Why Chronic Pain Sufferers Don’t Seek Help

August 6, 2019

New survey sheds light on chronic knee pain sufferer and why they don’t seek help before it’s too late.

While much has been written about how healthcare costs affect patients ability or willingness, that’s not the only issue holding back patients from getting treatment.

A new survey from Vericel, “A Look at How Knee Pain is Keeping us on the Sidelines,” looks at one condition-chronic knee pain-and examines why many patients don’t seek help until long after they first experience pain.

Overall, the survey found that while 89% of those with knee pain wished they could find a long-term solution, 74% said they hoped the pain would dissipate on its own and don’t seek medical attention.

Geoffery Van Thiel, MD, MBA, orthopedic surgeon at OrthoIllinois, Team Physician Blackhawks Medical Network, says that “for healthcare executives, it’s important to know what factors (i.e., the cost of surgery or fear the surgery won’t work) are preventing patients from seeking care and why patients are waiting so long to get treatment for their knee pain.”

For those who do seek treatment, people wait three years on average from first beginning to feel pain to getting medical attention. This, Van Thiel says, can create further problems for those patients.

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“Patients who wait too long to get treatment-especially if it is related to their damaged knee cartilage-can find themselves with more serious concerns down the line and limited treatment options. This can not only affect patients’ health and medical costs, but also can impact the amount of time and money hospitals and healthcare providers spend treating those patients who do not get their knee pain taken care of when they first experience it.”

That knee pain can also inhibit tasks like household activities (74% of respondents), and even prevent sufferers from physical activity (85%)-which could further increase health problems.

So why do people avoid getting medical attention? Unsurprisingly, 30% of respondents cited the costs associated with treatment. But other reasons were just as common. Those included:

  • 30%: Believing they can live with the pain 

  • 29%: Life being too busy

  • 26%: Putting the needs of those they care about before their own

  • 24%: Becoming used to their knee pain

While most respondents wished they could manage their pain with medication (79%), after consulting with a healthcare provider they were more likely to consider surgery (54% for those who sought treatment vs. 15% of those who did not).

“Talking with a provider,” Van Thiel says, “may help knee pain sufferers better understand what treatment options are available to them so they can get back to enjoying their favorite activities.”