Chronic pain is a common symptom of countless conditions and injuries. Whether it's from fibromyalgia, knee osteoarthritis, cancer, or any other ailment, chronic pain can take you from 60 to 0 in no time flat. When doctors can't treat the underlying causes of chronic pain, "Take two aspirin and call me in the morning" just doesn't cut it.
Over the years, numerous solutions to the problem of chronic pain have developed, such as surgery, Cortisone shots, and Physiotherapy, to name a few. Each of these strategies has their ups and downs with regards to cost, invasiveness, permanence, chance of success, and so on. Many people find that one or more of these treatments is the solution they were looking for. Others, however, try all of them without any luck.
A recent development in the world of pain treatment is the widespread use of prescription painkillers, opioids in particular, which are a type of drug that works on the nervous system directly to inhibit pain. Common prescription opioids for pain relief include oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, morphine, and fentanyl, an accidental overdose of which is believed to have caused the death of the late great musical artist Prince.
The consequences of prescribing addictive substances to patients, even in highly controlled dosages, are only coming to light now. The numbers, however, are already staggering. In 2012, 259 million opioid prescriptions were written in the US, which is enough to give one bottle of pills to every adult in America. In 2014, nearly 2 million Americans were addicted to prescription pain killers, and in the same year, almost 19,000 Americans died from overdosing on them. The rate of such deaths has quadrupled since 1999. (For these stats and more, check out the ASAM's opioid addiction report, as well as the CDC's section on opioid overdose.)
And perhaps the worst part of this national situation is that these people still have chronic pain. The painkillers only work for as long as they are taken, and eventually the body will develop a tolerance for the medications that will make them less effective. The solution that I and many others have collaborated on is Integrative Pain Management. This mind-body approach not only avoids the dangers of prescription medication or surgery, but also seeks to incorporate the entire being (body, breath, mind, energy, and spirit) into the healing process, and fix the underlying causes of the chronic pain so that, through practice and discipline, it can be cured and not just numbed.
Over the next several weeks I will be posting integrative pain management content selected from my chapter in the book Integrative Pain Management: Massage, Movement, and Mindfulness Based Approaches. Share the blogs with your friends, post them on Facebook, and retweet me on Twitter so that we can get this pain-fighting knowledge to the people who need it.