(HealthDay News) — For adults with chronic pain, the most prevalent pain management therapies were over-the-counter pain relievers and exercise in 2020, according to a research letter published online Nov. 21 in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

S. Michaela Rikard, PhD, from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, and colleagues estimated the prevalence of use of pharmacologic and nonpharmacologic therapies among adults with chronic pain using data from the 2020 National Health Interview Survey.

About 54 million adults self-reported chronic pain in 2020. The researchers found that use of over-the-counter pain relievers in the past three months was the most prevalent among pharmacologic therapies, followed by prescription nonopioids and prescription opioids (75.5, 31.3 and 13.5%, respectively). Exercise was the most prevalent of the nonpharmacologic therapies, followed by complementary therapies, physical or occupational therapy, and cognitive-behavioral therapy (55.0, 36.7, 17.2 and 2.6%, respectively). More than one-quarter (26.6 percent) of adults reported pharmacologic therapy use alone, with most reporting nonopioid use only and few reporting opioid use only (22.4 and 1.0%, respectively). Overall, 60.2% of adults reported using both pharmacologic and nonpharmacologic therapies. The likelihood of using prescription opioids was higher for older persons, those with public insurance, and those with more severe pain, after adjustment for multiple factors.

“This study identifies opportunities to improve guideline-concordant use of pharmacologic and nonpharmacologic therapies among adults with chronic pain,” the authors write.

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