Chronic Pain is America's Biggest Health Problem

Chronic Pain is America's Biggest Health Problem

Posted by Staff on 27th Aug 2014

Chronic pain treatment options

Chronic pain is not just acute pain that won't go away. It can literally shrink the brain, reducing the volume of gray matter as much as 20 years aging would. Chronic pain can become not just a symptom of something else, but a transformation of a normal nervous system into a runaway, self-propelled freight train, in which the body no longer needs an injury to trigger a pain response; sensitive nerves do it without provocation.

Chronic pain is not that different than learning to play a musical instrument. The more the body "practices" processing pain, the better it gets at it, and the stronger the connections between pain nerves become. Eventually, even the slightest touch begins to feel like the scalding of a hot iron, a condition known as allodynia. Chronic pain can become so unrelenting that, for some people, suicide seems like the only alternative. The risk of suicide for people with chronic pain is double that of other people.

Chronic pain is America's biggest health problem. Typically defined as pain lasting more than 3 to 6 months, chronic pain affects 100 million adults in the U.S., close to 40% of the population. It's the leading reason people go to doctors, and it costs the nation upwards of $635 billion dollars a year - more than cancer, heart disease and diabetes combined.

Despite the prevalence of chronic pain, many people, including physicians, are unaware of non-narcotic treatments. Chief among these is exercise. Many people with chronic pain worry that if they move, they will injure themselves further. To date, there is no scientific evidence that activity must be avoided. Exercise is as close as there is to a cure help relieve pain and prevent future reoccurrences.

Other non-drug treatments are also gaining credence with mainstream medicine. Acupuncture has been shown to stimulate adenosine, a powerful pain reliever made naturally by the body. More patients respond positively to acupuncture than those who have not undergone acupuncture treatments. Other approaches include massage, cognitive behavior therapy, meditation, biofeedback and chiropractic manipulation can all be helpful in managing chronic pain.