November 08, 2009
Widespread Chronic Pain
John Tierney of the New York Times draws attention to the high prevalence of chronic pain.
Chronic pain affects more than 70 million Americans, which makes it more widespread than heart disease, cancer and diabetes combined. It costs the economy more than $100 billion per year. So why donít more doctors and researchers take it seriously?
Think about that 70 million number. It is worse than it looks. At about 23% of the population that means almost 1 in 4 people live in chronic pain. But since the injuries and illnesses that cause chronic pain accumulate with age your own odds of eventually living in chronic pain are much higher than 1 in 4. The lesson here: human bodily aging is not dignified, it is not beautiful, and it is painful.
That is the challenge raised by a new report from the Mayday Fund, a nonprofit group that studies pain treatment. The report, which been endorsed by an array of medical groups, advocates a revolution in the training of doctors, the financing of research and the education of law-enforcement officials.
I advocate the faster development of rejuvenation therapies so that we can repair the damage that causes chronic pain. I also advocate more careful living. You are just one injury away from suffering the rest of your life.
Try the age-old remedy: The daily constitutional. Take a brisk walk for at least 30 minutes, and you'll be surprised how the released endorphins will mask low-level chronic pain. In my experience, those who do not exercise are more susceptible to nagging pain. (I'm not talking about intense pain, just the daily reminders that one is no longer 19.)
I've feel that getting body work regularly will hold off the onset of chronic pain in my life. I have done 2 sets of 10 sessions of Rolfing, also called structural integration. I also get massages every 30 to 60 days and focus on improving flexibility and increasing muscle strength through resistance training. Its expensive, but good health is worth it. A "pound" of prevention is worth not having to visit an MD in over 15 years.
One reason many americans live in chronic pain is the impact of the drug war. Doctors properly fear prescribing adequate doses of narcotics, for fear of being persecuted by the DEA.
Hence many Americans unnecessarily die in terrible pain.
Rich, you are improving your odds, but it won't help you if you get a nasty cancer, or a neuropathy, or any number of things. It is a popular, but wrong, belief that you have that much control over your health outcomes. You can make a difference, but there are no guarantees, and often genetics is as important as anything else.
I've read a few pieces hypothesizing that a lot of chronic pain is due to chronic inflammation - and a lot of inflammation is caused by our dietary choices. One more reason to move that Omega-3/Omega-6 consumption ratio back toward pre-agricultural levels.