September is National Pain Awareness Month. In Pennsylvania it is also Women In Chronic Pain Month.
The latter is an easier concept. Bringing attention to the disparity and gender bias in treating chronic pain in women vs. men.
To my mind, the former is much more complicated.
First if all, I wish they had included the word “chronic” in the resolution and not merely the word “pain”. Everyone is in pain at some time or another. The issue is much greater than that. It goes directly to the kind and amount of research and research funding, as well as the treatment of those living with chronic pain.
There are many disorders and diseases with pain as the main or sole complaint. These are some of them: cranial nerve neuropathies (such as trigeminal or glossopharyngeal neuralgia), peripheral neuropathies, including phantom pain, CRPS (chronic regional pain syndrome), many of the auto immune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis, and Lupus, and the list goes on and on.
Many of them have treatments, medications, and possibly surgeries, that are specific to the diagnosis. The one common denominator, absent the pain, is the use of prescribed opiates. Codeine, Vicodin, and others are prescribed mainly as an analgesic, since all they can hopefully do is anaesthetize the pain.
Many of us who live with daily and often constant pain tend to look at it as one main category: chronic pain. But putting it all in one basket or one name makes it harder to accept the difficulty in finding an appropriate treatment. There is not and probably cannot be just one answer, because there are too many disorders as the primary cause.
I have to admit I get frustrated when I see attention and publicity paid to a specific disease such as fibromyalgia or CRPS. I immediately think but that is only one illness, what about the rest of us?
My trigeminal neuralgia pain is not the same as the pain of someone who has CRPS or fibromyalgia. Of course it is different. Yet there is a debate ongoing as to whether chronic pain is a disease in and of itself.
How can it be a singular disorder? Pain, after all, is a symptom, a sign. It is not an entire entity.
But boy, I sure wish it was. Research and funds could be coordinated with one single goal; relieving the chronic pain of an estimated 100 million Americans.
It would be so easy, so wonderful to have the one- size- fits- all answer. It allows for hope. If all the money, all the studies and research were directed towards the one endpoint — the chances of a cure would be greater. Instead it is scattershot towards the individual illnesses.
It is National Pain Awareness Month. We need to bring attention to the month, to the numbers of people living with pain, to its disability and horrors. It is a time to announce the ills that cause the pain. It is also a time to remind ourselves that the answer may be a longer time in coming then we wish. The upside is that the research is ongoing for the singular illnesses.
And in that, there is hope.
Carol Jay Levy has lived with trigeminal neuralgia, a chronic facial pain disorder, for over 30 years. She is the author of “A Pained Life, A Chronic Pain Journey.” Carol was accredited to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, where she helped get chronic pain recognized as a disease.
The information in this column is not intended to be considered as professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Only your doctor can do that! It is for informational purposes only and represent the author’s personal experiences and opinions alone. It does not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of National Pain Report or Microcast Media.