Pain Leader Has Message for Providers, Patients and Payers

Pain Leader Has Message for Providers, Patients and Payers

Geralyn Datz, PhD

Geralyn Datz, PhD

“Chronic pain is the largest public health problem of our time.”

Those are the words from Geralyn Datz, Ph.D, is a licensed clinical psychologist who specializes in behavioral medicine and is the current President of the influential Southern Pain Society.

At their recent meeting in Orlando, Dr. Datz said there was a consistent theme among the one hundred primary care physicians, pain specialists, neurologists and psychologist that attended.

“We shouldn’t stay with the status quo when we treat chronic pain. The challenge is to think outside the box for the benefit of our patients.”

Dr. Datz said that the new information about chronic pain is from neuroscience which states that chronic pain becomes learned, and thus ingrained in the brain.

“The pain signal propagates itself in an unhelpful process that reinforces itself over time, leading to more pain, more disability, more depression and anxiety and less sleep over time,” she said. “It can become hard wired into the nerves.”

The result is that MRIs, nerve conductions studies or whatever the diagnostic test may not show a positive finding. The patient suffers, the physician isn’t sure how to treat it and the situation devolves. Millions of patients with disabling pain know well this vicious cycle. It’s beyond frustration.

Dr. Datz likens it to “torture.”

“The state of pain treatment today is a confusing landscape for patients,” she said.

But she is optimistic about the future.

Dr. Datz sees improvement in the interdisciplinary strategies used to treat chronic pain. She counts herself among a group of pain practitioners who believe that an intensive process that involves treatment of body and mind is necessary for a person to recover from chronic pain.

But she also understands that the patient is easily frustrated.

In fact, when we asked if she had any tips for a patient who wants to change his or her life, she offered this.

“I know pain patients. When they come into see me, they don’t want tips, she pointed out. “If they can’t get relief, they at least want someone to listen.”

So what does this confusing landscape hold for the pain patient? Dr. Datz sees two distinct things and plans to discuss these in regional and national meetings of her peers.

First, she wants to educate and remind medical providers that pain treatment is interdisciplinary and included the mental health of the chronic pain sufferer.

“There are evidence based treatments like cognitive behavioral therapy and integrated pain programs, that can vastly improve and sometimes reverse pain processes in chronic pain patients,” she said.

Secondly, she has her eyes on the insurance carriers.

“The second part of my platform is to include payers and carriers in the conversation of pain treatment. We must increase dialogue to improve understanding of chronic pain, and what it is like to treat pain patients, and show carriers that all pain providers are not unethical drug pushers.”

The confusion that exists for provider and patient alike can be addressed only if all the players are talking with each other.

“Knowing your patient and their preference was a main theme at the Southern Pain Society meeting,” she said.

Editor’s Note: Dr. Datz practices in Hattiesburg, Mississippi and will be president of the Southern Pain Society for the next year. She is a licensed clinical psychologist who specializes in behavioral medicine. She achieved a Top 1% Ranking among psychologists in the nation for customer satisfaction.


Here’s a recent National Pain Report story previewing the Southern Pain Society Meeting (click here)

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Authored by: Ed Coghlan

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Jean kirschenheiter

I suffer from chronic pain from spinal stenosis. I’ve done every possible treatment possible for years. Why does insurance companies pay for all other resources for chronic pain, like physical therapy, chiropractic, steroid shots, etc…… now I found out I’m a candidate for laser spine surgery and my insurance company is giving me a hard time. So now I have to go through the appeal process through my insurance company. Thank you kindly.

Bill Bradley

How can you be so absurd. From my cervical spine to my lower back i have degerative disc disease, athritis and stenosis. I also have a compression fracture from 25 years ago. My liver is in stage 4 cirrhosis and i have heart disease. All proven all on mri’s ultasounds and biopsies. Its real! After trying everything imaginable my doctor finally found the right dosage of pain medication that nenabled me to get out of bed, at the time go back to work, drive a car and be a father husband and provider.
I didnt want to be on painedication for the rest of my life because of the stereotypes people like you have put on opioid pain medication. Not 1 chronic pain patient that thakes their medication as directed has overdosed. Because of the idiot doctors that over prescri ed or the idiot patients that mixed with liquor or other medications they shouldnt have, or the acute patients that took too many pills cause they expected 0 pain, people lile me have to pay for it? Thats wrong. All i see are beaurocrets and doctors and insurance companies that either have a special interest, greed or thier own agenda. This is wrong you are wrong. Ease put a stop to killing americans, or i see a suicide and heroine epidemic we could never imagine.


Therapies that used to provide some relief from the spasicity that comes with my SCD are now out of reach, either not covered by Medicare, my one & only insurance, or with unaffordable copays. Warm water PT and massage are considered “luxuries” that aren’t medically necessary according to most insurances. It’s important to keep up with those knots, and after years of not doing so, or rather doing the best I can on my own but falling short of being effective, it feels like my spine is pulling in on itself; soon my whole body will be shaped like a ball. So, with all the talk of different modalities, I wonder if the people making policy regarding treatment of CP ever consider, for example, that even the best insurance has around a $20 copay per session for PT, with a cap of 10 to 20 sessions per year. With it usually being ordered 3Xweekly, a person with a limited income could go broke really quickly, if they could afford to go at all. I’m also pretty stunned by the statement, “chronic pain is the largest public health problem of our time.” I mean, really stunned. Aside from the annual causes of death reported by the CDC - over 400,000 from heart disease, as opposed to 16,000 from pharmaceutical drug overdose - it seems to me just by looking around that the biggest problem by far our nation has to contend with is heart disease, along with diabetes and other illnesses relating to obesity, poor nutrition, insufficient exercise and just plain stress. People are having to work more, and are getting paid less, to feed their families really bad food, and they’re doing it while sleep deprived and in a near constant state of worry. This is the crisis we face. I’m not saying we’re not having a pain crisis as well…more like, we’re having a overall health crisis on a global scale. Instead of sequestering people suffering from different ailments into groups and declaring one group to be the crisis du jour, though (or, if you’re going to do this, at least pick the group that’s actually suffering the most damage), I just don’t understand why it’s not obvious that there are much bigger issues at work here. The socioeconomic hurdles faced by the average person these days are much worse than they’ve been since the Great Depression. Add to that the fact that it’s so much easier and cheaper to eat fast food yuck than to eat a nutritious meal, and exercise is a luxury of abundant time that’s hard to come by when you work two jobs so your kids can go to a decent school, is it any wonder there’s also been a spike in pain? The surprise would be if there weren’t. Fix the problem and the symptoms go away, right? Maybe we’re just not looking at the big picture. Or maybe greed has overcome those who have been charged with our representation when it comes… Read more »

My personal experience with years of chronic, debilitating fibromyalgia pain proved that pain killers, anti depressants, acupuncture, physio therapy… did not eliminate my life altering symptoms. Only when I found the unique work which helped me to identify the unresolved issues and stressors causing my illness did I find relief.
I am forever grateful for my remission. I have been both pain and prescription free for nearly fifteen years. Keep hope alive!

Kathy Hastings

As a chronic pain patient, I would love to include additional therapies into my treatment program. However, the copays have put me in poverty! Not to mention, massage therapy is not covered, along with other treatments. A person should not have to live the way I do, fighting and waiting for disability after working all my life and being in this condition due to no fault of my own. Because bureaucracy is allowed to exist for years, is why so many end up homeless, while even awaiting a decision. Without an address to receive mail, too bad, so sad for any help from anyone. My husband, a veteran and still Army National Guard member, who works as a teacher, is the only one working and if it were not for family and friends, we would be homeless! I am sick to death of being in this condition!!!!