Reflections on Pain Management

The following paragraphs are excerpted from the article, Pain Management, written by Lisa Rohleder, LAc.

Pain is misunderstood and undertreated; pain patients are stigmatized; and chronic pain can ruin your life if it isn’t adequately addressed. 30% of Americans suffer from chronic pain, and pain presents as a symptom in more than 80% of physician visits.

Pain is a chemical electrical signal interpreted in the brain. There is a big difference between acute pain and chronic pain; they are actually distinct neurological conditions. Acute pain is like an alarm, and chronic pain is like an alarm that is broken. Acute pain is the impulse that keeps you from injuring yourself further, what makes you yank your hand off a hot stove; chronic pain is what keeps you from functioning. One of the most important things that chronic pain patients can do in order to improve their quality of life is to exercise — but in order to exercise, they somehow have to persuade themselves to ignore the alarm in their brains that is screaming at them to stop. They have to persuade themselves that hurt is not harm.

The goal of pain management is to improve quality of life and ability to function. As Teresa* explained it, pain clinics do not promise patients that they will get rid of their pain. In part, they teach patients to live a lifestyle that will manage their pain.

* Teresa Keane, psychiatric nurse practitioner at the Kaiser Pain Clinic.