In 2020, the ACPA is celebrated 40 years of service to people with chronic pain. Here are some highlights of those four decades.


  • Founded with two small groups in a suburb of Pittsburgh, PA in 1980; in five years grew to 21 ACPA groups in PA, OH, OR, TX, ID.
  • In 1982, the ACPA’s Board of Directors was formed.
  • Non-profit status granted on March 3rd 1983.
  • To ensure membership growth and continuity in the groups, two manuals were developed, the Member’s and Leader’s manuals.
  • To aid in relaxation, two relaxation tapes were created.


  • Membership donations initiated to help support the organization.
  • In June, 1990 the ACPA national office moved to Rocklin, CA staffed by one full-time volunteer.
  • Quarterly newsletter, The ACPA Chronicle, created and distributed to ACPA members.
  • The first ACPA video developed.
  • The first ACPA National Leaders Conference was held in Jumonville, PA.
  • Penney Cowan awarded The Jefferson Medal by the American Institute for Public Service


  • In 1991 there were 526 ACPA groups in 49 states, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Russia. Within five years, the ACPA grew to 830 groups in all 50 states, Canada, Australia, England, Mexico, Scotland, Ireland, New Zealand, and Russia.
  • National Office Resource Line created to provide callers with information.
  • ACPA Professional Advisory Board formed.
  • ACPA Workbook II, Maintaining Your Wellness developed.
  • ACPA Workbook for Family Members developed to meet the growing needs of family members who live with those with chronic pain.
  • ACPA Workbook Manual translated into Spanish.
  • ACPA Ten Steps and ACPA pamphlet translated into Russian.


  • In 1996 there were 830 ACPA groups in all 50 states, Canada, Australia, England, Mexico, Scotland, Ireland, New Zealand and Russia.
  • By the end of 2000 there were more than 750 ACPA groups in all 50 states, British West Indies, Canada, Australia, England, Mexico, Scotland, Ireland, New Zealand, Saudi Arabia and Russia.
  • Reflections of You: A Daily Meditation and Personal Journal designed to provide a daily thought about how to better manage your pain.
  • ACPA Growing Pains teen network developed for young adults with chronic pain.
  • ACPA website created.
  • The ACPA Kits for Wellness released. Each of the six kits focuses on one area of pain management to allow members to work with an ACPA group or on their own.


  • ACPA’s first office space was obtained in 2005, staffed by one full-time and two part-time employees.
  • Coping Calendar created highlighting a basic coping skill each month.
  • Pathways Through Pain video series featuring ACPA members who have learned to manage their pain and regain quality of life begun.
    CARE Card for correctly taking medications created.
  • The Consumer Guide to Medications and Treatments developed to educate people to make sound treatment decisions with their doctors.
  • The ACPA Quality of Life Scale created to help people talk with their doctors more productively about the impact pain has on their lives.
  • The graphical Living Better with Chronic Pain Log created to quickly summarize the factors that affect suffering and to enhance communication.
  • Pharmacists and Nurses Awareness and Advocacy Tool Kits developed in cooperation with Partners for Understanding Pain .
    The ACPA website available in Spanish.
  • ACPA launched a national campaign, Partners for Understanding Pain, a consortium of more than 80 organizations with interests in pain management issues, to create awareness about the many aspects of chronic pain.
  • PA Governor declares September as Pain Awareness Month.
  • The It Takes Nerve campaign launched to help people understand nerve pain and how it differs from other types of pain.


  • The ACPA collaborated on the Fibromyalgia Education Campaign to produce a pamphlet and tip sheet about fibromyalgia. Fibro Management Kit developed to enhance communication with health care providers.
  • Fibromyalgia Person, a web-based tool to enhance understanding of Fibromyalgia symptoms debuts on the ACPA website.
  • Informational talk on chronic pain and fibromyalgia presented in five cities.
  • Emergency Department Survey: Study with American College of Emergency Physicians on expectations and experiences in the emergency room. The In Case of Emergency pamphlet and web tools created to help individuals prepare and know what to expect in the ED.
  • The ACPA Consumer Guide to Pain Medication and Treatment DVD and web tool begun.
  • The Consumer’s Guide to Lower Back Pain Practice Guidelines created to help consumers understand the concept and process behind practice guidelines.
  • Tool Kit for Older Adults added to the Partners for Understanding Pain Tool Kits.
  • ACPA website devotes a section to It Takes Nerve and provides a variety of tools such as the Nerve Central Station that enables the user to scroll over “nerve man” to record the location and type of pain for better communication with health care providers.
  • September proclaimed Global Pain Awareness Day.
  • ACPA pilots a program with three Kaiser Permanente locations to educate staff in the benefits of peer follow-up support and train Kaiser pain program graduates to conduct ACPA groups.
  • ACPA teams with AgrAbility to conduct a series of presentations in 10 rural communities to promote awareness of pain management among farmers and ranchers. AgrAblity is a project of the Department of Agriculture and the Easter Seal Society designed to provide adaptive equipment to injured and disabled farmers and ranchers. The AgrAbility video presentation available on the ACPA website.