How To Live With Chronic Pain

man red joint pain( — If you, like millions of other Americans, live with chronic pain, you are certainly not alone. Some studies have demonstrated that pain is widely undertreated by American doctors, and pain has a far-reaching impact on the life of any individual who must endure it.

Acute Pain: A Common Denominator

Most of us know what acute and sudden pain feels like. Perhaps you’ve broken your wrist while hiking, sprained an ankle on the tennis court, stepped on a nail, or had a heart attack from which you recovered. Pain is simply a series of neural signals that let us know that something has gone wrong and an injury has occurred to the body. Thanks to pain signals, we are instantly alerted to remove our hand from the hot stove or rush to treat that unexpected bee sting.

Chronic Pain: More Common Than We Know

Sometimes, acute pain can become chronic, like an acute spinal injury that causes a cascade of musculoskeletal and neurological problems that eventually lead to pain that cannot be relieved. Many forms of chronic pain develop insidiously over time, and an occasional uncomfortable physical nuisance gradually transforms into a life-altering condition.
Millions of Americans live with chronic pain caused by spinal injuries, fibromyalgia, arthritis and other illnesses that they did not bring on themselves through any action of their own, but with which they must live for many years with little relief.

Chronic pain has an economic impact on the person who suffers from the condition, but also on families, caregivers, employers, as well as the larger economy. Chronic pain cuts across socioeconomic and racial boundaries, and individuals from all walks of life suffer its ravages, both mental and physical. While those blessed enough to have health insurance can go to great lengths to seek relief from their suffering, there are countless uninsured Americans for whom relief is much more difficult to come by. Some spend thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket expenses on both mainstream and alternative health care in search of alleviation of their suffering, and some individuals and families can be bankrupted by this exhausting effort, even as they are denied health insurance based on a pre-existing condition—chronic pain.

Suffering in Silence

When you see an individual in a wheelchair, using an oxygen tank, or walking down the street with an assistance dog, you immediately make the assumption that that person has a disability, even if you cannot determine the source or nature of their particular condition based on the evidence at hand. Still, that individual’s disabled status is assured in your mind, and you file that information for future reference.

However, there are many people walking alongside you on the sidewalk or standing in line at the bank who suffer from chronic pain, a most invisible yet frequently devastating form of illness.

For those unable to afford medical care, health insurance, symptom management and official acknowledgement of their condition, their chronic pain may be a cross that they bear in silence, even when it is debilitating in nature. This is like a cruel joke, an irony beyond imagination, and many individuals hold down jobs and still support their families despite overwhelming odds.


Chronic pain is often a silent and devastating fact of life. It affects Americans of all stripes, and its impact is emotional, physical, psychological, spiritual and economical in scope. Chronic pain is epidemic, often under-diagnosed and untreated, and, like any other condition, requires compassion, understanding and support.

If you or someone you love lives with chronic pain, remember that its treatment can be difficult, and the impact of chronic pain can be universally overwhelming and deleterious to the overall quality of life. Compassion indeed goes a long way, and that compassion can often be the lifeline that can even momentarily relieve the suffering of a grateful person in need.

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