The Importance of Treating Chronic Pain

The Importance of Treating Chronic Pain — Pain News Network – Dec 2015 – By Emily Ulrich, Columnist

Jane Ballantyne, MD, and Mark Sullivan, MD, wrote that reducing pain intensity – pain relief – should not be the primary goal of doctors who treat pain patients.

They suggest that patients should learn to accept their pain and move on with their lives.

This statement is nothing short of infuriating to me and I imagine to anyone who has to live with chronic pain. Many of us have already heard a doctor say, “I don’t prescribe pain medicine. Pain won’t kill you.”  

There are years of research that show that pain left untreated or under-treated does in fact kill.

See other posts about the damage pain does to our bodies and minds:

It may not happen right away, but it [pain] greatly affects our quality of life and kills us slowly in a variety of ways.

There is also a very long list of comorbidities that often come with chronic pain, including

  • hormonal and metabolic imbalance,
  • impaired immune function,
  • skin rashes,
  • ulcers,
  • incontinence,
  • high blood pressure, and much more

— all of which ultimately lead to a decline in quality of life and overall health

Unrelieved pain can also permanently change the brain and nervous system, preventing the brain from fully resting and developing new cells to repair brain damage.

Research shows that the brains of pain patients can deteriorate over the course of a year at a rate which would take a healthy person’s brain one to two decades.

Cerebral atrophy causes seizures and dementia, both of which can lead to death, and both of which are preventable in pain patients when given adequate pain care.

Staggeringly, none of this seems to have been taken into consideration by the CDC or the doctors who have written this recommended “treatment” approach.

One is perplexed by the “sweep it under the rug” mentality of these doctors, and the many who will be influenced by the CDC and the anti-opioid suggestions published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The facts are these:

  1. Opioid misuse is not epidemic in the U.S. (opioid overdose is not even in the top 20 causes of death),
  2. but chronic pain is pandemic.

The overwhelming majority of pain patients who use opioids do not abuse or divert them. Yet the majority of patients are under-treated or even untreated for chronic pain.

doctors have an exaggerated fear of addiction.

Most of all, money is running the show.

It seems that the American healthcare system sees us as useless members of society, who can either be eliminated or turned into eternal consumers.

Treating us only with drugs that have dangerous side effects requires a whole new set of medications to treat the host of new ailments that their drugs have given us.

Another cog in the “Big Pharma” takeover of chronic pain (where we are offered treatments such as Lyrica, Neurontin, antidepressants, NSAIDs, biologics, etc., instead of inexpensive and proven opioid therapy) is that the CDC consulted with addiction treatment specialists, as well as insurance and drug company influenced “researchers” who have a conflict of interest.

We have to speak up. We have to educate ourselves and sometimes our doctors.

Many of us don’t realize (and some doctors don’t want us to realize) that we have a basic human right to pain care.

According to the Journal of American Society of Anesthesiology,

“the unreasonable failure to treat pain is poor medicine,
unethical practice, and is an
abrogation of a fundamental human right.”

The “alternative treatments” suggested by the CDC, Ballantyne and Sullivan include therapies most of us have either tried or had fail; or they are already part of our overall pain therapy.

Now is the time to speak up, before we have brain damage or die.

9 thoughts on “The Importance of Treating Chronic Pain

  1. avaswan

    My pain has gotten so bad my quality of life has nosedived in the last 6 months. I have been on disability for 13 years and tried to limit stronger pain meds and have used tramadol and antiinflammatory for pain. I knew later I’d need more for my pain in coming years, now I need them and my Dr. knows I am not just wanting them for abuse of pills. Yet when I went asking for more help for pain he gave me Neurontin which after 3 weeks has not helped. I can hardly walk and I feel like there is no help for me.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Zyp Czyk Post author

      Do docs really believe these suggested non-opioid meds are effective?

      Most people with pain say they aren’t, yet people without pain that are writing the rules are certain they do. They believe education and research trumps personal experience… as long as it’s not their own.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Zyp Czyk Post author

          Yes, a media campaign would be great, but it would cost a lot of money that we don’t have.

          I love your phrase ” prisoners to our pain and hostages to the government’s directives” – so TRUE!

          Liked by 2 people

          1. Laura P. Schulman, MD, MA

            So I think, given the timing, it wouldn’t be hard to get press coverage. And once a few people tell their stories on 60 Minutes or Oprah etc, there will be a platform.

            Right now the story is all about doctors making junkies out of formerly solid citizens. But you yourself have gathered a tremendous amount of evidence to the contrary. We know a few chronic pain sufferers who are anything but junkies. I’m sure there are hundreds of thousands of people who are right now living in fear that they will be told to just live with it. It’s hard for us to do the legwork, because we aren’t so physically capable, but I’m sure there are plenty of people out there who would step up to the plate. I hope.

            Liked by 1 person

  2. Laura P. Schulman, MD, MA

    Reblogged this on Bipolar For Life and commented:
    Reading this post, I was reminded of the day in 1987 when my first neurosurgeon reviewed my CT scan with me. It showed a badly ruptured disc in my neck. He told me to forget about it and go back to work (120 hours a week, as an intern in a tough academic program).

    “What are you whining about?” he sneered. “It’s only pain.”

    Two days later I was in emergency surgery. He later told me he had never seen a disc so smashed. Postop, I was given steroids, but no pain meds. Gotta be tough, no whining!

    This whole “just live with it” mentality used to be a common hazing technique in the culture of doctors-in-training. At one point in my second year of residency, I was living in a molded plastic body jacket because four of my lumbar discs had degenerated. I asked my program director if I could go part-time for a few months, just to have time to go to physical therapy.

    Her answer?

    “You’re either on the bus, or off the bus.”

    What compassion. A true role model for young physicians.

    Later that year, I was working in the ER and had to call the orthopedic service resident to see a kid with a fracture. The resident on call turned out to be a woman. Very rare in those days to see a woman orthopedic resident. Even more rare to see them finish their residencies, because they were usually hazed out.

    This woman appeared in a long leg cast: from her groin to her toes. Had had a bad fall skiing, badly smashed up, lots of plates and screws.

    Yet her other team members that night–the intern and senior resident–were happily running up and down the stairs in the hospital, expecting the woman to keep up with them. The elevator? That’s for weenies! You’re either on the bus, or off the bus, as Ken Kesey used to say. As she sat in the cramped cinderblock cell that served as our office, writing her note in the fracture kid’s chart, she propped her own broken leg on a chair. The toes were grotesquely swollen and purple. I shuddered to think of the pain she must have been in. I asked her if she was taking anything for it. She shrugged, her face a blank mask.

    Someday, I thought, if she makes it through her program (she did), it could go either way: she could either become an extremely compassionate doctor, or an extreme hardass.

    But this new wave of torturers is a different breed, I think. I don’t know what it’s really about, but I wish them all a dose of kidney stones. Chronic ones. No dilaudid. After all…it’s only pain! Get used to it. Get your lazy ass off the floor and stop that moaning. Get used to it! Go back to work!

    Liked by 2 people


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