Pain is a funny thing. Well, maybe "funny" is the wrong word. But, pain can be experienced in many ways with a variety of responses. Children, for example, will sometimes play games experimenting with pain, discovering how much pain they can tolerate and often laughing at a friend who exceeds his pain threshold. And if the shoes look good enough, you may become willing to endure some pain in your feet.
116 MILLION AMERICANS SUFFER FROM CHRONIC PAIN
Despite my light-hearted introduction, pain is no laughing matter. A 2011 study released by The Institute of Medicine states that 116 million Americans suffer from chronic pain, more than diabetes, heart disease and cancer combined. This study also estimates that the total cost of healthcare due to pain (including time lost from work, reduced production, etc.) ranges between $560 billion and $635 billion per year.
More importantly, chronic pain can have a devastating effect on sufferers' quality of life. According to the 2006 Voices of Pain Survey - conducted by the American Pain Foundation and sponsored by Endo Pharmaceuticals - respondents reported significant loss in quality of life:
Almost two-thirds (59%) reported an impact on their overall enjoyment of life.More than three quarters of patients (77%) reported feeling depressed.70% said they have trouble concentrating.74% said their energy level is impacted by their pain.86% reported an inability to sleep well.
DITCH THE PAINKILLER
The emotional fall out from long-term pain likely plays a strong role in the rise in abuse of prescription painkillers. From 1992 to 2008, prescription drug abuse admissions for people over 50 nearly doubled, making prescription drugs the second most abused category of drugs in America.
In a special message to health care professionals, Kathryn Weiner, PhD, Director of the American Academy of Pain Management, summarizes the difficulty of treating chronic pain:
Because pain is a complex puzzle, no single health care profession holds the puzzle piece that solves this puzzle; rather, each health care profession holds a critical piece that contributes to the completion of the puzzle. Pain practitioners are trained to see their patients as multifaceted, whole systems requiring a multidisciplinary viewpoint. A vast panoply of therapeutic options are available to pain patients, ranging from allopathic medicine to various complementary disciplines. Today's pain patients may select Western medicine, Chinese medicine, acupuncture, pharmaceuticals, chiropractic, nutrition, supplementation, body work, yoga and psychology, to name a few. . . . The path to pain reduction lies in the power of applying many different healing therapies in a way that complements the patient's needs, beliefs and personality.
ALTERNATIVE TREATMENTS FOR CHRONIC PAIN RELIEF
This recognition of the complexities of pain and of the individualized responses to treatment has led to an increasingly holistic approach to pain relief and to the integration of multiple forms of treatment. Here is a brief description of some effective pain therapies:
Orthopedic medicine is a branch of medicine focused on the functioning of the musculoskeletal system, such as bones, joints, tendons, ligaments, and muscles. Because chronic pain is often located in the joints and related to the musculoskeletal system, orthopedists possess extensive training in pain relief diagnosis and treatment.
Sports medicine, considered a branch of orthopedic medicine, specializes in the treatment of acute and chronic injuries caused by the unique conditions of athletic activities.
Prolotherapy is a relatively new mode of treatment in the field of pain management, and is gaining prominence among Orthopedists and Naturopaths. Prolotherapy injects an irritant - usually a sucrose solution - into joint tissue to induce a controlled inflammatory response. The inflammation in turn kick starts the natural healing processes of the body, releasing collagen into the joint and promoting the growth of fibrous tissue that strengthens the tissue in the joint.
Although clinical trials have returned mixed results, prolotherapy has proven an effective aid to pain relief, especially when used in conjunction with a program of multiple healing modalities.
Increasingly, movement therapy is recognized as an effective aid to pain relief. Feldenkrais practitioners use movement exercises to re-train neuropathways to change posture, balance, and body movement to relieve pain created by trauma or repetitive motion. Yoga and dance therapy help strengthen the body and build awareness to promote self-healing of chronic pain.
HELP IS AVAILABLE
If you are suffering from pain, you do not have to resign yourself to living with it. Speak with your primary care giver. Find a specialist you trust using techniques you believe will help you. With some help, some rehab, and some patience, you can regain the quality of life you used to enjoy before your pain wore you down.