Chronic pain is defined as pain associated with a condition that lasts more than three months. People with chronic pain define it as living in an ongoing state of hideous torture.
Such a simple definition for those living with it. Certain chronic pain patients are obviously in pain; those recovering from surgery, a fracture, an accident. Others have no outward symptoms but their pain is just as great and often more than patients whose cause is clear. These people suffer not only the physical pain but also the social pain of denial by friends, family, and often the medical field that their pain exists.
How prevalent is it?
An estimated 125,000,000 Americans live with a chronic pain condition.
Those figures are considered low due to the number of people who don't go for help, having deciding the medical system won't help them. These live in pain, many choosing suicide over treatment they are sure will never come.
Sadly, they are correct. Chronic pain is probably the most under-treated condition in our country due to:
Chronic pain is seldom cured. The best a patient can hope for is some alleviation of the pain. Without that, we often get progressively worse, more depressed, and are lost to death due to our injuries and diseases and suicide.
As noted by W.H.Stein, M.D., of the UCLA Medical Center, "... patients in unrelieved pain suffer increased psychiatric illness, more suicides, deteriorations in immune functions and increased metastases cancer growth. Families are daily destroyed by the fallout of untreated pain. The status of the treatment of chronic pain is abysmal. Stein noted that in one recent study 81% of physicians and nurses felt that the most common form of narcotic abuse in the care of the dying is the under treatment of pain." Ref. The National Foundation for the Study of Pain.
Stein describes the bleak outlook chronic pain patients live with as our lives change forever. Jobs are lost. The pride we took in our work vanishes. Without a purpose, we drift around their homes, a shell of our former selves, asking what our use in life is now. Family roles change.
Wives who previously stayed home are forced to go to work and the husbands who stay home are unable to take over their roles, so the workload on the wives doubles.
We encounter difficulty working with the systems we have paid into while working: Workers Compensation, Social Security, private disability insurance, private health insurance. This makes it necessary for us to hire attorneys. The attorneys are busy and have little personal time for us.
The process creates stress which increases the pain but no one in the systems seems to care. It today's age, in the United States of America, people in chronic pain are given the impression that the systems would prefer we would just go away and die rather than receive the help we are entitled to. If they make it difficult enough for us to get help, if enough of us give up and commit suicide, if we starve to death because we have no money to live on, then the problem will solve itself. There will be no chronic pain patients to worry about.
We find ourselves completely isolated as former friends gradually fall away, still busy with their own lives. The pain takes over. It determines when we sleep, if we feel good enough to eat, if we have energy enough to cook. Medical treatment can take up most of our time. Other times we cannot get medical treatment at all.
There are legal battles to be fought and little understanding of them. A sudden education is needed and few ways to get it.
Income changes drastically and along with everything else, living adjustment must be made. Houses are lost. We even become homeless.
Sometimes the best ally we can have is a support group of people in the same situation, with the same disease or injury. People who have gone down the road already, who can advise us on what to do to cope, on how the systems work. Mainly just someone else who understands what we're going through.
Through support systems, we find we are a lot tougher than people give us credit for. Yes, our entire lives change. If we can manage to find each other, we can find strength and in that strength, hope. We learn we are still the same people we were before we were injured or the disease hit. We find other reasons for living. And we keep on going.
Don't give up. Help is out there. Other people who understand, who can help us with the systems. Professional organizations and just plain people to talk to even in the wee hours of the morning when we can't sleep.
How is this changed? Only by numbers. Only by enough chronic pain victims speaking up. This site is not about activism though we provide lists of sites that are.
We provide information, tell you about all the systems and how to work with them, and hope to help people in chronic pain.
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