Do you suffer with chronic pain? If so, you are definitely not alone. According to various reports, over 1.5 billion people worldwide suffer with chronic pain.
Registered pharmacist, Jim Morelli joined me this week to talk about chronic pain, how it affects the lives of Americans, what causes it, new treatment options and more!
Candace Rose: What is chronic pain and how common is it?
Jim Morelli: “Pain is chronic when it largely doesn’t go away. It’s that nagging backache or that sore knee or that hip discomfort that you learn to live with — but never comfortably. Chronic pain likely affects about100 million Americans — but perhaps many more than that. Pain is one of those symptoms that after awhile people stop talking about. So it’s hard to get an exact read on how many are suffering chronic pain.”
Candace Rose: How does it affect the lives of millions of Americans?
Jim Morelli: “Even if chronic pain is isolated to a single joint, it can have effects throughout the body. First off, pain hinders movement. So there are cardiovascular and cardiopulmonary effects to deal with over the long term. Second, chronic pain causes the release of stress hormones in the body, which can affect blood pressure, mood and distribution of weight.”
Candace Rose: Why Is it important to be in touch with our pain? And understand It’s sources?
Jim Morelli: “Knowing WHY you have chronic pain is important because there may be effective and possibly even simple ways to alleviate or eliminate the discomfort. For example, chronic knee pain related to overuse of joints can sometimes be reduced by strengthening muscles around the knee. Also, it’s important to know whether or not something else might be going on. I recently interviewed a gentleman who had several weeks’ worth of ear pain. His first, logical thought was ear infection or
allergies. It turned out to be a late-stage cancerous tumor.”
Candace Rose: What are today’s most affordable and accessible treatment options available for patients who suffer from chronic pain?
Jim Morelli: “One of the most classic examples of chronic pain is rheumatoid arthritis — and the first line of pain treatment for that disease is good old-fashioned acetaminophen, also known as Tylenol. It’s cheap and it’s effective — but only to a point — and only in limited amounts, since overdoses of acetaminophen can damage the liver. Fortunately, most pharmacological treatments for pain relief, including anti-inflammatories and narcotic analgesics — are available in generic, inexpensive versions. However, as pain becomes more pronounced, pharmacological treatments become more expensive. Sophisticated biological drugs can cost thousands of dollars a month.”
Candace Rose: Can you tell us about the latest in hi tech, non-medicine remedies?
Jim Morelli: “Non-pharmacological remedies for pain that DO work include acupuncture, which studies are showing can even relieve severe pain from such diseases as cancer. Because pain causes stress, interventions such as massage can help, as well. One interesting new item is the Rapid Relief electronic pain relief pad, which uses electrical stimulation to actually block the pain signal. This is not a new technology — but what IS new is that you can actually purchase these devices in the pharmacy — including CVS Walgreens and Walmart.”
Candace Rose: What are the most important tips for Americans on how to live with chronic pain on a daily basis?
Jim Morelli: “First, it’s very important not to ignore chronic pain. It might go away, but probably it will not. And not doing anything about it might mean it will get worse. Plus, you really want to find out what’s causing it — in case it’s an organic disease that can be treated. Second, it’s important to “stay ahead” of the pain. In other words, if you have chronic pain, don’t try to tough it out. Doing so can worsen the pain because of increased stress — and that can inhibit healing. And finally, don’t be afraid to “call out” to your health care professional if you are experiencing pain. Remember, nobody can “see” your pain. Only you can report it. And if you’ve got it, your doctor will probably want to know.”