MY STORY: President Obama – Please Talk About Chronic Pain

MY STORY: President Obama - Please Talk About Chronic Pain

Let me start by saying that as a chronic pain sufferer I am very lucky and grateful. Like many who suffer from pain, I have had a tumultuous and painful journey but I’m at a place where things are about as good as they can be.


Sara Gilbert Nadler

I was seriously injured in a traffic accident in 2003, and suffered serious back injuries. Surgeries, interventions and lots of frustration (about two years worth) ensued before I found Dr. Paul McCormick at Columbia Presbyterian in New York City who helped me through the surgeries that the accident necessitated. After the surgeries, he sat down with me and explained that I had something called “chronic pain.”  He referred me to Dr. Michael Weinberger Chief of The Pain Management Department, and Palliative Care Department at Columbia Presbyterian who treated my pain and ultimately recommended that I have a spinal cord stimulator implanted. It was a success and I haven’t had to take pain medications for a decade and I’m living a full and independent life.

Like I said, I am lucky.

Like many of the 100 million chronic pain patients I could go into great detail about my own story, but that’s not why I’m writing this column. I’m writing because I think it’s time that President Obama and other federal leaders get a national conversation going about chronic pain.

When I look the public attention given to pain today, I think we are focusing on the wrong things. I am free of pain medication and have been for ten years. But when I needed it, I needed it. The DEA’s decision to reschedule hydrocodone products has had two results. One it has choked the supply of narcotic pain meds which may not be a bad thing on paper. But it also resulted in legitimate pain patients who need them not getting them. That is a bad thing.

It’s a big issue - but it is only one part of the chronic pain.

For one, I’m glad that the National Pain Strategy (NPS) has been drafted. I think it’s a good start to bringing the issue of chronic pain out of hiding and to the forefront of public health in the U.S. I encourage anyone who reads this to submit comments by the May 20th deadline. I worry a little that the people who drafted the strategy are the same folks who do most of the talking about pain. I worry even more that the perspective of real pain patients may be missing in the document. (Some of the patient advocate groups seem a little disconnected from the pain patient).

But as I said, it’s a good and long overdue start.

Pain is one of the most common reasons that people visit a doctor or other health care provider, and yet it has yet to be given adequate attention. The NPS says improvements are needed how to identify and treat pain in specific medical disciplines including basic knowledge, assessment, effective team-based care, empathy and cultural competency.

Both prevention and care of acute and chronic need greater emphasis throughout the health care system. My own story-and probably yours-is speckled with health care providers who either didn’t know exactly what to do with me or tried to fit me into a one-size fits all treatment.

It’s time for the federal government to lead the discussion.

On many issues when he’s trying to create bi-partisan support for something, President Obama likes to say “it’s not a Republican issue, it’s not a Democratic issue, it’s an American issue.”

Well, he’s right if he is talking about chronic pain.

The trouble is he hasn’t been.

His wife Michelle has been an articulate and passionate advocate for military families. She could tell him how the issue of chronic pain for active military and veterans permeates their lives. She could tell him what I would tell him - you don’t need to see a disease to know it exists.

I have written the President and asked him to raise the topic of chronic pain as a national conversation: to meet with real chronic pain patients and providers and learn that this issue is a bi-partisan issue. Chronic pain has no political philosophy. It is an equal opportunity enemy to millions of Americans and their families.

Let’s take that enemy on, today!

C’mon Mr. President. It’s time to talk about chronic pain and lead an action that can help the 100 million Americans who are suffering and impatiently waiting for you or someone to do something.

If not now, when?


Editor’s Note- Sara Gilbert Nadler has written on her experiences as a chronic pain patient. She has a Masters in Social Work and spent years of practice as a Medical Social Worker Case Manager in acute rehabilitation, acute care hospital, and skilled nursing facility settings.

Authored by: Sara Gilbert Nadler

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I had 3 stimulaters put in over a 12 year time as it semms after 3 years they start to malfunction the 4th became infected in my spine was in the hosp for a week as they had to get the fluid out of my spine ,,They worked great but now I can’t get another for fear of another infection will kill me so I had to find a painkiller to take may car accident left me replacing and repairing 7 disc after 15 operations ,, some people do need these painkillers not the guys selling them on the street


I would like less government involvement in my personal private health care and leave it up to me and my doctor it’s nobody’s business what meds I take or what treatments work for me as long as i don’t harm anyone else it’s my body my life my decision stay out of my private life and my doctor patient confidentiality


I have been through the same NIGHTMARE I to am sick of being treated like I have done something wrong we really need to stand up and be heard otherwise we are just bitching to ourselves and others who are in the same shoes and anybody that can make a difference isn’t ever going to see this

carla davis

Drug Manufacturing Companies putting Profit before People..

I am sorry about your accident. And that you had pain relief. I had back surgery and take oxycodone and morphine. My Primary Dr. did not want to give them to me so go to a Pain & Spine Clinic. They have been good to me. On the 19th will start physical Therapy.


To get our voices heard we need to organize and stage a MASSIVE protest to tell the government to back off and let doctors do there job and we as chronic pain suffers have to stand up for our selves there are enough of us that are fed up with people in law enforcement and politics deciding how we should be treated alot of us are unable to work and collect Dissabitaly entitlement benefits and have time to help those who are lucky enough to still work my be able to offer financial support to help bring us all together and organize a march on WASHINGTON DC and state capitols so we will be taken seriously not just complaining let’s do more action and less talk
I’m willing to give my time and open to making some change to end the suffering I can be contacted at for further comments and suggestions on what to do if you agree with me
Thanks for reading,
Rev, Smith

i am a 42 year old mother of 4 and a wife of 20 years. I have been a fitness instructor my entire adult life. Several years ago I started have very debilitating symptoms. I have Mixxed Connective Tissue disease which is an auto immune disease that basically affects my body everywhere in many different ways. I lost myself for awhile and couldn’t be the Wife, mom, daughter, friend and all the above that I once was. I have and still do try everything… Massage, physical therapy, acupuncture ect. Everything!!! I want and need my daily quality of life. I’m fighting this monster and being the best I can be. Chronic Pain drains your soul. When you spend your days thinking, feeling, worrying about pain it drains all your energy. I have been through HELL with doctors and have been given help then had it taken away. Now I’m treated like some kind of Drug addict to be able to just be me and be there for my family. Drug addicts are going to find a way to get high. Whatever you try to take away they’ll just find something else. Established and future patients who have followed the rules, have a diagnosis and do the right things should not be effected by these ridiculous new laws. The drugs are still out there. I hear about it every day from my teenagers and college kids. Hurting lives of those who are only trying to work, raise good kids, be a postive person in this world should not be treated like addicts nor have their quality of life taken away because of the ones who want to get high. They will always find a way. Wake up People. Your only causing more chronic pain patients to need more assistance because most cannot function without their pain being controlled at least a bit. You have no idea how hard I push and go to be productive nor the tears I hold back due to the pain I’m in daily. Pain Meds only lessen your about about 30%. But that can be a world of difference for chronic pain patients. This country has become so narrow minded and selfish. One of you making these decisions for everyone walk a week in my shoes and then tell me what you think.

A very good article you have posted.
c’mom Mr Obama.

Stephen S. Rodrigues, MD

Please Ms. Gilbert, the President is not the enemy.
The enemy is a huge hungry beast of a business model, where you and I are it’s fed.
Gee, out of all the possible points of interest, The President?
You have been misguided and I pray that you eventually will find your way through this huge maze of deceptions and confusion.
I must say that the entire healthcare machine is messed up and broken. It will take an act of Congress to make all the necessary changes, but to blame or point the finger at the The President?
Did you send letters to the AMA, your state’s medical board, your state’s reps, your state’s governor?
I have sent many letters to all points of interest and none have responded favorably. They are all too distracted following orders, rules and regulations. They have all been stripped of any power to voice any concerns. That is because many of us are too busy blaming and shaming.
Did you know that in reality, “all pain has a source and there are effective treatments for all the sources and types of pain.” Humans have always had reasonable and safe treatments to remove the sources of pain and restore those who suffer in pain to wellness. Every human has the right to be free of worrisome amounts of pain so that they can enjoy life with minimal disturbance to their lives and pursuit of happiness. Unfortunately we are all too busy being distracted and turned into ghost.


Health Care Act Provisions-


There is a Pain Policy that is part of the ACA, but there is no way to fund it. Perhaps discussing with the politicians ways to fund this would also be helpful. The next step will be getting insurance companies to pay for other methods of pain management besides pain meds.