Are you experiencing pain for several months or longer? If the answer is affirmative, you are a chronic pain suffer. Chronic pain affects from 42 to 50 million Americans, according to the American Pain Foundation. What causes chronic pain, and what can you do about it?
For some people, their chronic pain is due to an injury but other chronic pain sufferers can’t trace any one cause. Arthritis, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia afflicted people suffer from chronic pain. “Numerous illnesses can cause chronic pain,” said Dr. Jacob Teitelbaum, M.D., Director of the Practitioners Alliance Network and author of the best-selling From Fatigued to Fantastic!, Pain Free, 1,2,3!, Real Cause Real Cure, The Fatigue and Fibromyalgia Solution. “The most common causes include arthritis, muscle pain (the most common cause back pain), autoimmune inflammatory illnesses such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, migraines, tension headaches and fibromyalgia.”
“Sadly, one out of three Americans suffers needlessly with pain (up from one in four only a decade ago),” says Dr. Teitelbaum. “I say needlessly, because effective treatment is available for most chronic pain. Many physicians are not trained in pain management, except for using arthritis medications such as NSAIDS, which kill about 30 to 50,000 Americans each year by causing bleeding ulcers, strokes, and heart attacks. Research shows that natural remedies are very effective for treating pain and cause ‘side benefits’ instead of side effects.”
“From a rheumatologist’s perceptive, the three most common arthritis conditions that cause chronic pain are inflammatory forms of arthritis including rheumatoid disease, psoriatic arthritis, gout and the mechanical forms of arthritis including osteoarthritis and fibromyalgia,” said Dr. Nathan Wei, founder of the Arthritis Treatment Center.
If there is no underlying disease, what could be causing the pain? “We always try to find the underlying factor or factors for a patient’s chronic pain, to identify the primary disorder that may be causing it,” says Dr. David N. Maine, Center for Interventional Pain Medicine at Mercy Medical Center. “This may be done by imaging (like CT or MRI), by the tried-and-true physical exam and other diagnostic studies. We can also look for any psycho-social stressors, issue in the patient’s personal and professional lives that may be contributing to the subjective experience of pain.”
“If there is no underlying diseases, most often the chronic pain is caused by inflammation, or inadequate energy production in the muscles,” says Dr. Teitelbaum. “The inflammation often comes from poor diet such as excessive intake of sugar and fats, while muscle pain tends to be caused by poor nutrition, inadequate sleep, hormonal deficiencies, infections, and poor ergonomics.”
How can chronic pain be optimally treated? “My philosophy is to take a multi-modal approach—to meet with the patient, to get a detailed medical history and then perform an exam,” says Dr. Maine. “I want to reconcile the things the patient is telling me with what appears in the exam findings, as well as imaging studies and other tests. In this way we can devise a plan to best target the source of pain; once you understand the source of the pain, you are best equipped to develop an effective treatment plan.”
“Pain is like the oil light on our body’s dashboard saying that something needs attention,” says Dr. Teitelbaum. “When you put oil in a car, the oil light goes off. When you give the body what it needs, the pain goes away. For muscle pain, our published research shows that in treating with what we call the “S.H.I.N.E. ® Protocol” decreases muscle pain an average of 50% after three months.
SHINE stands for: Sleep, Hormones, Infections, Nutrition and Exercise as able. We used fibromyalgia as the model in the study, as this is the most severe kind of muscle pain. By the end of the study, the majority of people no longer qualified as even having fibromyalgia.”
What supplements are recommended? “My favorite supplement is a mix of curcumin, Boswellia, DLP A, and nattokinase called Curamin by EuroPharma,” says Dr. Teitelbaum. “Curamin has been a pain relief miracle for countless people suffering with chronic pain. Topical comfrey (called trauma plant), and another herbal mix called End Pain (a mix of Willow bark, Boswellia, and cherry by Enzymatic Therapy) are also helpful. These can be taken in combination with any pain medications. Give them six weeks to see the full effect (although the topical Comfrey works within minutes). Other nutrients and herbals tailored to specific kinds of pain can also be very helpful.”
How can physical therapy help chronic pain sufferers ease their pain? “Physical therapy can be a very helpful tool in dealing with chronic pain,” says Dr. Maine. Richard Sedillo, PT, COMT, Arizona Manual Therapy Centers says that “people with chronic pain should make an inventory of their daily activities and document levels of pain.”
Julie, age 62, went for physical therapy with Richard Sedillo after being diagnosed with fibromyalgia syndrome after 30 years of medication not helping. Her symptoms included numbness and tingling in the scalp, face tingling, jaw pain, visual disturbances, fatigue, headaches and reduced sleep. “After a thorough assessment, we discovered that Julie had a rotator cuff dysfunction with surgery being the recommended course of action. After her surgery, she found substantial relief from her symptoms,” said Sedillo.
“People with chronic pain need to warm up the tissues with non-weight bearing activities such as steam baths and dry saunas,” said Sedillo. “Generally decreasing inflammation causes a decrease in muscle spasms which decompresses the joints and relieves pressure on the nervous system.”
Do people suffering from chronic pain also suffer more from depression? “They have an increased risk of committing suicide because of the chronic pain,” said Dr. Teitelbaum. “This is because the pain has not been adequately treated – largely because most physicians are simply clueless about treating chronic pain. People do better if they see a specialty called physiatry (Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation) when those physicians have been trained in myofascial release techniques such as dry needling and spray and stretch.”
One chronic pain patient, Tara Langdale-Schmidt created a product to help her lessen her pelvic pain. “After numerous doctor visits failed to diagnose my problem, I was running out of options,” said Schmidt. “From a previous positive experience of using magnets to reduce back and neck nerve pain from a car accident, I realized that these same neodymium magnets installed into a dilator might have the same results and founded a start-up company VuVatech which is a non-prescription medical devise to help women relieve pelvic pain.
Can most chronic pain be reduced or entirely eliminated? “It takes time to develop a good patient-physician relationship to understand the cause of pain and all the elements that are going to be necessary for achieving total success,” said Dr. Maine, “but you do not have to live in chronic pain in today’s age of medicine.”
“Most often chronic pain can be eliminated with proper treatment, and can almost always be improved,” says Dr. Teitelbaum. “I have treated over 3,000 people with chronic pain, most of which have been failed by standard medical treatment, and can count on my fingers the number that I have not been able to get adequate pain control for.”
Many people suffering from chronic pain report that the Salonpas® Pain Relief Patch, the first FDA-approved OTC topical pain patches for the temporary relief of mild to moderate muscles and joints aches and pains associated with arthritis, helps ease their pain.