If your back aches when you’re loading groceries in the car or your hands cramp up with arthritis when you sit down at the computer, you’re not alone. Although the nature, cause, and complaints vary, over one-half of Americans experience chronic or recurrent pain, a recent survey conducted by the Stanford University Medical Center found.
Pain is your brain’s signal that there is trouble a brew in your body, akin to the ‘Check Engine’ light in your car – a warning mechanism prompting you to take care of a situation that will otherwise worsen. And while its advantages are obvious in situations of acute pain – like when you accidentally cut your finger chopping vegetables or twist your ankle playing soccer, sufferers of chronic pain cannot easily remedy the source of their ailment. The pain takes a toll on their quality of life - impairing mood, sleep, and the ability to perform enjoyable activities like sports and necessary tasks at work. It is hardly surprising, then, that Americans spend $1 out of every $7 dollars they earn seeking pain relief.
Pain relief treatments are as varied as the types of pain we suffer from, the most popular being prescription medicines and over-the-counter treatments. Other commonly used therapies include massage, chiropractic visits, time-tested home remedies and simple bed rest. Many also find that light exercise and stretching help alleviate their pain.
As physicians, researchers, and the public have become increasingly interested in exploring the link between mind and body, yoga, meditation and even laughing clinics - where patients, led by a “laughing coach”, attempt to giggle, snort, and chortle their way to pain relief – have seen a corresponding upsurge in popularity. These treatments, along with acupuncture and homeopathic and herbal remedies, are also beginning to gain credibility within the medical community, as medical study findings seem to validate their beneficial effect on those suffering from pain.
At the other end of the spectrum, surgery still remains an appealing option for some, hoping that drastic measures will result in dramatic pain relief.
With all these treatments, it’s a wonder we’re not all skipping down the street, whistling a happy tune, right? The thing is, for some reason, these treatments often aren’t having the effect those who tried them had hoped. While the majority of respondents in the Stanford survey cited above report that the various therapies they have tried work at least “somewhat well”, few say any treatment has worked “very well”.
Physicians and many patients note that the most effective treatment is a combination of various remedies, the exact mixture varying from person to person. Although it can be frustrating to continually alter and tweak your course of treatment, you must remember that pain relief is more often the result of a process than a magic pill.