The number of Americans who suffer from pain is astounding. Recent figures reveal that “an estimated 20.4% of U.S. adults had chronic pain and 8.0% of U.S. adults had high-impact chronic pain. Both were more prevalent among adults living in poverty, adults with less than a high school education, and adults with public health insurance.” The cost of medicine, lost productivity, and disability programs have climbed to $560 billion each year. 1
The difference between these types of pain is important to understand. “Acute pain is provoked by a specific disease or injury, serves a useful biologic purpose, is associated with skeletal muscle spasm and sympathetic nervous system activation, and is self-limited. Chronic pain, in contrast, may be considered a disease state. It is pain that outlasts the normal time of healing, if associated with a disease or injury. Chronic pain may arise from psychological states, serves no biologic purpose, and has no recognizable end-point.“ 2
Despite the attention pain management attracts, current research indicates many treatments are inadequate for several reasons: (1) many patients do not trust the knowledge they get from healthcare professionals, (2) consultations with patients are rushed, (3) general practitioners put pain relief as a low priority, (4) pain specialists do not believe that this is a disease in its own right, (5) healthcare workers skills are not fully utilized, and (6) psychological therapy is usually delayed and even too late to do any good. 3
Most pain management programs encourage users to take medications that have unwanted side effects. As a contrast, holistic pain management focuses on a body’s internal functions, “triggering natural healing and releasing endorphins, your body’s ‘feel good’ chemicals.” 4
We have members at BIND who have tried different methods to manage or alleviate their pain. A number of these members claim they are “still a work in process.”
I can only focus on a few good examples. Half of all working Americans admit to having back pain symptoms each year. It is the leading cause of disability, and it is the most common reason for missed work. Americans spend at least $50 billion each year treating back pain. 5
Here is one that I have had several bouts with for my leg and thigh. Sciatica refers to pain that radiates along the path of the sciatic nerve, which branches from your lower back through the hips and buttocks and down each leg.
In my case, I had a herniated disk, or bone spur on the spine or narrowing of the spine that pinches part of the nerve. The pain is intense. I took treatments from both a pain doctor and a chiropractor, whom I made sure did not know each other. The pain doctor used Morphine, Hydrocodone, and Tramadol, which I still use daily. The chiropractor used decompression to separate the bone from the nerve. This is not a quick treatment, and that can take as much as six months to see any results.
Here are some observations from our members at BIND:
“I have been seeing a chiropractor for 2 years. Shortly after I started seeing him, I noticed that I was sleeping better, reduced headaches, and it has improved my spine alignment.” Carrie
“Thankfully I’m not riddled with pain. I do prefer a more homeopathic approach when available. I have found Arnica Montana which has both topical and sublingual pellets. Works great – it’s also helpful in alleviating minor strains and sprains. I use CBD pain serum topically.” Annette K
It is not always possible to prevent sciatica. The suggestions for treatment are to exercise regularly, maintain proper posture when you sit, and use good body mechanics. If you stand for long periods, you will be told to rest one foot on a stool or small box occasionally. I have also taken steroid injections and acupuncture, with disappointing results. 6, 7
What are some other sources for managing pain?
DO’s (Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine) and MD’s (Doctor of Medicine) are both physicians who can practice in any area of medicine. “Of the 860,917 physicians actively practicing in the United States in 2015, 67.1% hold an MD degree granted in the U.S., 24.3% are international medical graduates, and 7.6% hold a DO degree.” 8 Many are primary care doctors. Both can prescribe medication and train to do surgery.Osteopathic doctors get extra training in the muscles, bones, and joints. DO’s learn osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT), which means that they use their hands to diagnose, treat, and prevent illness and injury. They apply techniques such as gentle pressure, stretching, restoring range of motion, and encourage good health. 9, 10
Massage Therapy compliments chiropractic care. In many cases, massage therapists and chiropractors use the same location or office. Massage is another natural way to relieve pain. Many patients believe that a massage will reduce stress, internally relax the body, and promote safe healing.
Other pain relief options include Meditation and Relaxation. Several of our members at BIND have testified that these techniques are often helpful to fight pain caused by stress. Simple exercises release natural endorphins, which combat pain. You can easily find sources that document the fact some daily exercise even reduces heart disease risk, controls blood sugar levels, and helps to lose weight.
In summary, no one wants to live in pain. While there are options for how to take care of yourself, there are barriers, including lack of adequate insurance and other factors. Some of these involve transportation, lifestyle habits, family support, financial pressures, just to name a few. For 19 years, I taught foreigners from many places all over the world. Many times, they remarked, “Americans have the greatest chance to live and survive in a healthy way but so many of our citizens do not have access to it.” Sad!
~ Karl K, BIND Member
8 :2016 Physician Specialty Data Book”. Association of American Medical Colleges