Though chronic pain is often hidden from the front pages and TV screens, it is actually Americans' biggest health problem. Chronic pain — typically defined as pain lasting more than three to six months — affects 100 million adult Americans. It is the leading reason people go to doctors and it costs the nation more than cancer, heart disease and diabetes combined.
Despite the prevalence of chronic pain, many people, including many physicians, are unaware of the growing number of non-narcotic treatments, backed up by considerable research.
Chief among these is exercise. Many people with chronic pain are terrified that if they move, they will damage themselves further. But nothing could be further from the truth.
Exercise is as close as there is to a magic bullet for pain. Even "aggressive" exercise often does not raise the risk of more back problems in people with chronic low back pain, studies have shown.
Other non-drug treatments are also gaining the endorsement of mainstream medicine.
The MILD Procedure for example is performed to treat a lower back painful condition called Lumbar Spinal Stenosis. Lumbar Spinal Stenosis (LSS) is a condition that affects 1.2 million people in the United States annually. As we age, the ligaments and bones outside the spinal canal may thicken and press on the spinal canal causing it to narrow. MILD© is an FDA-cleared procedure during which a trained physician inserts specialized tools through a tiny incision the size of a baby aspirin in the back, and removes small pieces of bone and excess ligament that cause the narrowing of the spinal canal. The MILD© procedure is performed in less than one hour and patients are able to resume light activities in just a few days. No general anesthesia is required and no implants or stitches are left behind.
What is chronic pain?
Chronic pain is not just acute pain that doesn't go away.
It can literally shrink the brain, reducing the volume of gray matter as much as 20 years of aging. Chronic pain can become not just a symptom of something else, but a transformation of a normal nervous system into a runaway, self-propelled freight train, in which the body no longer needs an injury to trigger pain.
In a sense, chronic pain is not all that different from learning to play the piano or speak French. The more the body "practices" processing pain, the better it gets at it and the stronger the connections between pain nerves become.
For more information on the non-narcotic treatment for chronic pain, contact the Franklin Pain and Wellness Center.