Date: September 14, 2008
Author: Orvie Prewitt and Ann J. Corley
As I see it: Don't suffer in silence - reach out for help
In late 2000 Congress enacted a provision declaring 2000-2010 as the 'Decade of
Pain Control and Research.' Yet despite the fact that an estimated 76.5 million
Americans report they have experienced chronic pain - more than heart disease,
cancer or diabetes combined - pain remains woefully undertreated and
misunderstood. This is due, in part, to persisting misconceptions, fears and
stigma surrounding pain management.
It is not limited to one age, sex or ethnic group. Chances are you know someone
who lives with persistent pain - maybe it's you. Unfortunately, a vast majority
of those in pain believe that it is something they must bear. They are often made to feel that the pain is 'just in their heads.'
There is a high cost to this pain epidemic. Physiologically, it weakens the immune system and slows recovery from injury or disease. Psychologically, it can lead to depression and anxiety. Socially, it impairs almost every aspect of a person's life. Economically, pain costs our economy $100 billion annually in medical costs and lost productivity.
The reality is that the medical technology exists today to manage most pain, and
when pain is treated properly, many people can resume their lives. The challenge
is integrating that knowledge into practice. If you or someone close to you is
in persistent pain, it is important to confront the stigma that pain carries.
You have the right to have your pain properly assessed and treated. You stand
the best chance of making that happen when you take an active role in seeking
treatment and communicating very specifically about your pain and its impact on
your quality of life.
There is no better time than Pain Awareness Month to attend community events,
speak openly with health- care providers about pain levels, demand appropriate
access to treatment from insurance companies, and contact your Missouri and
Kansas legislators to ask their support of state and federal policy to help
people in pain.
Self-advocacy can also begin by reaching out to organizations such as the
American Pain Foundation or the National Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and
Fibromyalgia Association for information and support. Please join us next
Saturday for a daylong workshop designed to offer real solutions, presented
by health-care professionals, on how to improve your quality of life.
The workshop is free but registration is required. For more information,
call (816) 932-2351, ext. 2; or send e-mail to email@example.com .
Through your advocacy, the way we think about and treat pain will change for
Orvie Prewitt of Kansas City is president of the National Chronic Fatigue
Syndrome and Fibromyalgia Association. Ann J. Corley of Lee's Summit is the
Power Over Pain regional coordinator-Heartland for the American Pain Foundation.
* * *
Doctors will give you all sorts of excuses not to give you prescription pain pills ... most of which were debunked by a local pain management specialist who gave a similar seminar here a few years ago.
They'll tell you they don't want to turn you into an addict. The fact is, less than 1% of patients become addicted to pain medication, and most of those can be identified in advance because they have addictive personalities. Whether it's addiction to alcohol or computer games, a few questions will weed out those at risk.
If the patient comes back asking for ever-higher doses, the assumption should be made that the previous dosage wasn't enough to control the pain, not that the patient has become addicted. Further, one would never say that someone is "addicted" to insulin if they have to use it daily to be functional, so why is there the perception that patients are addicted to pain pills if they can't function without them?
I endured years of sleepless nights because Advil is for inflammatory pain and the pain of CFS/fibromyalgia is neurological ... I was being told to take something that wouldn't be expected to do me a bit of good, and in fact, all I got for the hundreds of dollars I spent on Advil was an ulcer. When I finally got a very mild prescription intended to treat neurological pain, I went from sleeping 2 hours at a time to sleeping 5-6 hours at a time; when the pill wore off, the pain would wake me up. But it's a lot easier to be functional the next day on 5 hours of sleep than on 2 hours of sleep.