What is Chronic Pain?
Chronic pain is defined as pain that persists longer than 3-6 months. Unlike acute pain (pain that
signals something is wrong and needs to be corrected; such as touching a hot stove or chest pain
from a heart attack), chronic pain serves no positive purpose. The longer chronic pain persists, the
more difficult it becomes to treat. This is for 2 main reasons. First chronic pain causes changes in
the nervous system that often makes the perception of pain worse and can spread to other parts
of the body that were never originally affected. Many chronic pain patients who may have persistent
low back pain may start to suffer from neck pain or leg pain over time despite the lack of injury at
the new location.
The second main reason chronic pain becomes more difficult to treat over time is due to the collateral problems that arise from the pain. Problems such as depression, insomnia, headaches, weight gain and memory loss cause the entire chronic pain experience to be that much more unbearable. Suicide is the worst collateral effect of chronic pain. Fear studies have consistently ranked chronic pain as more feared than death. Many chronic pain patients tragically choose suicide as the solution to their suffering.
The alarming facts of chronic pain:
Up to 50% of chronic pain patients consider suicide at some point to end their suffering
It costs our society (USA) between 100 and 300 billion dollars per year!
Disables more people than cancer and heart disease combined
1 in 3 Americans suffer from some type of chronic pain
It is the number 1 cause of adult disability in the USA
Inadequate treatment, inappropriate treatment or undertreatment is the norm
Low back pain is the 5th most common reason for all physician visits
This list could go on and on. What all these statistics reveal is that conventional and alternative medicine has completely failed to treat chronic pain. What is the answer? I believe it is integrative pain management, NESP programs and the ability of the patient to consistently believe and hold in their minds that they can and will get better. It is key that the patient focuses on what he or she wants and not on what is (chronic pain and the associated problems).
Gregory Alan Smith, M.D., QME