More than one in every four working adults missed work in the past year due to pain — including headaches, backaches, arthritis, and sore feet, according to a recently released Gallup survey. That's an estimated 36 million Americans who missed work.

Pain is both widespread and accepted as part of life, according to the survey. Four of 10 adults say they experience pain every day, and nearly all Americans (89 percent) say they experience pain each month. Eighty percent of Americans believe their aches and pains are "just part of getting older" and 28 percent believe there is no solution to their pain.

OSHA begs to differ. The agency believes its proposed ergo standard will solve much of the pain and suffering of American workers. OSHA chief Charles Jeffress told ISHN last year that expectations about the "normal cost of growing older" have changed. "We expect workplaces to protect us— from having any more aches and pains than you normally get."

Many workers, though, apparently put up with pain. Only about half of those polled (51 percent) have visited a doctor in the past three years for their pain, and nearly two-thirds of Americans (64 percent) see a doctor only when they cannot stand the pain any longer.

The survey also found that pain takes a greater toll on women — affecting their lives at home and work. Women are more likely to experience pain daily than men are (46 percent versus 37 percent, respectively) and say that the demands of life at home and work contribute significantly to their pain.

While one in three women (35 percent) cite the trials of balancing work and family life as a significant cause of their pain, only one in four men (24 percent) say the same.

Women are 50 percent more likely to have missed work because of pain than men (33 percent versus 22 percent, respectively).

The Gallup survey results are based on telephone interviews with a national sample of 1,002 women and 1,000 men aged 18 and older, conducted by The Gallup Organization from May 21 - June 9, 1999.