Friday, July 1, 2011


I look online every day searching for new information about the treatment of chronic pain. My pain is well controlled for the most part, but I continue to look because I can’t help but feel for those still suffering every minute of every day. Chronic pain interrupts and destroys every part of life, trust me I know that too well. Frankly, if I were to describe hell, it would certainly come under the banner of chronic pain.

This past spring, I attended a 6-week program that incorporated different modalities to combat chronic pain. They offered education sessions, strengthening exercises, taught coping methods such as pacing activity and relaxation methods such as meditation. They also had a physician on staff that instructed patients on the proper use of their medication to obtain the maximum effect. Many were already on pain medication however, they continued to suffer significantly as medication alone is seldom the answer.

Prior to starting the program, I had done much research on my own and had already employed most of the methods they taught. However, I was deeply affected by my time there. Not by what I learned but by the other participants. There were many poor suffering souls also taking the program and while I would watch them shuffle down the hallways, I always became teary-eyed. Part of my emotional reaction was the nurse in me; the other more powerful reason was the fact that I was in their shoes not too long ago. They looked helpless, hopeless and devastated that this was their reality. I won’t say that I didn’t learn anything as there were a few things I picked up along the way. For the most part though, I talked to these other injured folks in depth about their injury and subsequent pain. I even helped a few out with the name of an excellent worker’s compensation lawyer. (Which incidentally is an absolute must after a workplace injury)

I suppose in any environment I can not turn off the nurse that resides within me. I told them exactly what I had been through and how I arrived at such a significant improvement. I watched many of them as their faces lit up with hope! I too had lost my hope at one point even becoming suicidal. Chronic pain can do that to a person. When they saw someone that used to be like them had actually improved, you truly could see the light bulb turn on. As human beings, if we lose hope, we are a short trip from complete, all-consuming desolation and that is a most harrowing place in which to find yourself! I offered physician’s names, medication regimens, and many of the activities they also taught at this program. I suggested they see their physicians’ fully prepared to ask the to doctor try each and every possible treatment available until they were successful. The biggest problem is that when you are suffering, you lack the ability to advocate for yourself because you simply do not have the strength within to do so. Chronic pain taps every resource that you have. I told them that despite their suffering, they must put their remaining bit of strength into advocating for themselves. The sad thing is, if we do not act as advocates for ourselves, no one else will.

So, the point of this post is WHY when there are so many suffering with chronic pain, we have not yet found a significant way to treat it and improve quality of life? The financial cost alone is staggering and is an excellent reason for researchers to push forward for better treatments. In fact, if you read THIS article, you will see that for the United States alone, chronic pain costs up to $635 billion annually in medical and economic costs. That alone should get everyone’s attention.

The present treatments are woefully ineffective as you can read HERE. Another scary statistic is the lack of education for physicians as there are apparently only 5 medical schools out of 133 in America alone that have required courses specific to the treatment of pain. Now, I don’t know about you but I think that is a pretty sad state of affairs and simply unacceptable!

On the upside however, I believe that chronic pain and the lack of forward progress in treating it has finally garnered the attention of some researchers. For those suffering, this can not happen soon enough! The American Pain Society is lauding the recent Institute of Medicine report as a 'step forward' in the treatment of pain. Hopefully with the increased awareness and research, chronic pain patients’ can finally get out of their beds and perhaps re-join their lives…That is my wish for all those suffering with chronic pain.

Take care and stay well,