"Chronic Pain: The Enemy Within," in USA Today, May 9, 2005: a new USA TODAY/ABC News/Stanford University Medical Center poll states that "As many as 40 million (in the US alone) or 19% of American adults - 1 in 5 - say they suffer from chronic pain: 44% have acute or short term pain. The problem is absolutely enormous," says Russell Portenoy, chairman of pain medicine at New York's Beth Israel Center. "It rivals every serious public health issue, whether you're talking about heart disease, cancer, obesity or anything else".
There is one Pain Specialist in the United States for every 23,500 people. Most people in pain rely on drugs, spine stimulators, implant pumps, and alternative therapies, including acupuncture to help them cope. Many pain medications derive from aspirin and opium, whose origins date back 2,000 years, and whose side effects are well known. Unfortunately, efforts to treat pain have lagged behind the researchers ability to understand it. Many of the drugs are only 50% effective and they leave the patients unable to function well under normal circumstances.
We may need to take a completely different tack in understanding and treating pain. But for now many people are left to try their own combination of approaches in dealing with their pain. Some are finding that natural remedies along with aspirin/ibuprofen and exercise/yoga/Pilates have helped tremendously. Many pain clinics teach meditation and biofeedback techniques. All in all it is up to us individually to find our own path to freedom from pain.
All pain, whether it be vascular, muscle or skeletal, comes from activated nerve response. Pain is a signal to the brain that something is not right and immediately puts the body on alert -- a protection devise.
(From The War on Pain, by Scott Fishman, MD with Lisa Berger): "Pain is caused by an alarm system made up of a network of nerves and signaling chemicals that extend into every nook and cranny of the body. Nerve endings that detect pain are the smallest, least insulated and most vulnerable of all nerves in the body.
The biggest concentrations of nerve connections between the body and the brain are in the areas needed for survival: the brain, lips, mouth, hands, feet and toes. When they encounter a stimulus, such as a pinprick, they send a message through trunk cables to a part of the spinal cord called the dorsal horn. This is the switchboard that relays the pain signals to the brain. It uses a second nerve network to relay everyday sensations. Pain alters the system, prompting nerve cells to make new receptors and send out new signals.
If you prick your finger on a rose bush, nerves carry signals to the brain, the brain pinpoints the location of the injury and sounds an alarm to pull back to prevent further damage. It sensitizes a wide area around the injury to expand the perimeter of protection. And it signals the body's pharmacy to produce its own natural painkillers called endorphins.
These chemicals, produced in cells throughout the body, act just like morphine and offer temporary relief from pain.
But sometimes the system goes haywire. In some cases, when nerves are injured the wires for pain and everyday sensations cross. It can occur after an injury or spontaneously. It occurs in shingle, because the virus that causes the illness, varicella, nests in the nerves. Nerves for everyday sensations are co-oped into the pain system, transforming mild sensations, like the brush of a sleeve, into agony. Unfortunately, efforts to treat pain have lagged behind the researcher's ability to understand it.
The more researchers delve into pain, the more they realize how complex the pain network is and that there is more to pain than they ever dreamed of, often with more questions at every turn.
There is also a mental component to pain because the brain registers pain in the areas that govern emotion. Someone that suffers a serious injury also may feel anxiety, fear and depression."
We are all familiar with the cycle that pain takes. The problem is that it is destructive to our well being and our enjoyment of life and worse, once begun, it's difficult to break the cycle. Each response to pain in the cycle supports the next and so it continues to the next reaction until we are facing loss of normal function and then anger, frustration, and helplessness.
You've tried everything the doctors suggested. They said to get more exercise, practice meditation, get physical therapy, take up yoga, avoid inflammatory foods like sugar. They may have suggested aspirin or other NSAID, or a prescription pain reliever, or cortisone shots, and they might even have suggested surgery. All of these actions can be helpful.
One thing is for sure - you need to break the cycle to feel better. A topical, natural pain relieving spray like Helios can help you break the cycle and can provide enough relief for you to exercise or relax or sleep more comfortably.
Let's look at Back Pain
According to Dr. Kenneth Grossman, many people experiencing back pain turn to medication…either over-the-counter medication or prescriptions -- or even illegal drugs to relieve their pain. Sometimes the medication helps but usually it just dulls the senses. Sometimes the side effects of medication are almost as bad as the back pain itself. Many people just don't want to take drugs. Others turn to surgery and many people suffering from back pain have had multiple surgeries. According to Dr. Kenneth Grossman, many people experiencing back pain turn to medication…either over-the-counter medication or prescriptions -- or even illegal drugs to relieve their pain. Sometimes the medication helps but usually it just dulls the senses. Sometimes the side effects of medication are almost as bad as the back pain itself. Many people just don't want to take drugs. Others turn to surgery and many people suffering from back pain have had multiple surgeries.
What Is Causing Most Back Pain?
Many doctors disagree on what causes back pain. Some blame it on disk degeneration or rupture, others talk about spinal stenosis or some other reason while some doctors think it's "all in the head".
Here's a Theory Progressive Doctors Subscribe to:
Pain is caused when nerves in the back are constricted by the muscles. When the muscles are constricted (and in spasm) the muscles also constrict the blood vessels, which are supposed to bring a supply of blood to the muscles. When an adequate supply of blood is brought to the muscles...in any part of the body including the back ...the muscles are warm and relaxed and without an adequate supply of blood the muscles are tight and tense. Hence the nerves are no longer constricted. No constriction or damage to the nerves equals no pain.
Here's another problem for chronic back pain sufferers - the mind. You are doing just fine. Then all of a sudden you feel a "twinge" in your back. Then you think about what you did "wrong" recently to cause your back to hurt. Then you remember something you did, like lifting a box or swinging a golf club or tying a shoelace.
Then you link the thought about what you did "wrong" with the last time you had back pain. Then you visualize yourself hurting for days or weeks on end. You visualize all the visits to your doctor or chiropractor. You visualize yourself in bed and stiff and not able to work or care for the family. You visualize yourself taking medication and suffering.
Here's What Happens:
The visualization process causes the autonomic nervous system to cause your back muscles to tighten and go into spasm and, just as you visualized it happening so clearly, you experience excruciating back pain. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy.
The whole process becomes a vicious cycle - the twinge, thoughts about problems in the past, more constriction of muscles, then more pain.