The Price Tag of Chronic Pain
Chronic pain comes at a cost -- from lost wages to social stigma. You don't have to pay the price.
A Hidden Cost of Chronic Pain: Worsening Health
That's because pain can start a vicious cycle that has a direct impact on
Perhaps your knee starts hurting when you walk. The natural response for
many is to walk less. But "if you stop walking, the muscles, tendons and
nerves in your legs atrophy and deteriorate," says Edwards. "If you
become inactive as a result, that leads to all sorts of problems like heart
disease and diabetes."
Just one injury can turn an active, healthy person into an inactive and
Surgery can have the same result. "Many people develop pain after
surgery or after illnesses like shingles," says Steven P. Cohen, MD, an
anesthesiologist in the division of pain medicine at Johns Hopkins School of
Medicine. If they don't get the pain treated promptly, he says, it can become
chronic. And that can lead to yet greater ills.
"People who have chronic pain are exponentially more likely to have
psychiatric illnesses like depression and anxiety disorders," says
Another Price of Pain: Social Stigma
Pain has a high social cost for the sufferer, too. Because pain is a
personal and subjective experience, it can lead to problems with family and
co-workers. While you may be in terrible distress, the people around you just
can't see or feel what you're going through.
"I think people in pain sometimes get unfairly dismissed by family and
co-workers" Robert Bonakdar, MD, tells WebMD, "especially when they
don't have an outward sign of suffering, like a cast or a bandage."
Bonakdar is the director of integrative pain management at the Scripps Center
for Integrative Medicine, La Jolla, Calif.
Cohen says this is toughest for people who suffer from painful syndromes,
like fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and complex regional pain
"There's much less sympathy and understanding for these elusive
syndromes," says Cohen. While Edwards says that the treatment for pain can
often lead to as much stigma as the pain itself.
"When people hear that you're taking a narcotic pain reliever like
methadone," he says, "they associate it with addicts." That can
lead people to make some very wrong assumptions about you.