Remember your gruff high school coach's advice for treating an injury?
"Just walk it off."
Turns out your coach should have been sidelined for making a bad call,
because while this strategy might have worked for the odd skinned knee, it's
downright dangerous for serious pain. Still, a staggering one in 10 Americans
reports that he or she has had regular pain for more than a year. Pain is the
No. 1 cause of disability in the United States. So why can't we find
No doubt about it -- plenty of us are suffering from chronic pain. More than
50 million Americans have some form of this malady, according to the American
Academy of Pain Medicine. But having lots of company doesn’t make it any easier
to bear. Chronic pain wears people down, causes fatigue and insomnia, and
results in missed work and social isolation. What can you do if chronic pain is
interfering with your life? Start by learning what you know -- and maybe don’t
know -- about it with this...
Experts say that some people get the wrong diagnosis from their doctor.
Others never seek help because they just get used to the pain. Or they assume
that pain is inevitable, like gray hairs, and don't bother fighting it.
But you should never settle for chronic pain. You shouldn't have to.
"Pain is the body's red alert," says Anne Louise Oaklander, MD, PhD,
an associate professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School. "You must
always listen to it."
Although pain treatment was once more of an afterthought -- as doctors
focused only on treating the underlying cause -- pain management is becoming an
important part of medical care. In other words, pain isn't just a symptom of
something else: It's a condition that needs to be treated.
What Is Chronic Pain?
Any pain that goes on for more than three to six months is considered
chronic. According to a 2006 report by the CDC, the most common types of pain
Migraines and other headaches
Low back pain
Joint pain and stiffness from arthritis and other conditions
Another common cause of chronic pain is nerve pain, the result of conditions
such as diabetes and shingles.
The effects of chronic pain vary from minor to catastrophic. Chronic pain is
much more than just the sensation of pain. It seeps into the rest of your life.
It can keep you awake at night, leaving you exhausted. It disrupts your family
life. It can affect your work -- or even prevent you from working at
Ideally, pain is meant to be felt briefly. That stinging, aching, or
throbbing sends helpful messages, like "Drop that red-hot pot handle"
or "Remove your hand from the hornets' nest." After a while, it goes