Someone very dear to me lives with pain that has become the defining factor in her life. It is difficult, most certainly for her, but also for those who love her. This is an issue that affects families and relationships and it is often not talked about. It is also a difficult road to negotiate in the medical field. She does not want to take opioids or other drugs that will leave her less connected to life. But, dealing with pain can be frightening.
In the book, A Whole New Life by Reynolds Price the author lives with chronic, excruciating pain. He is suffering from cancer that impacts his spinal cord and his book is the true story of his life and journey amidst the pain. Price states in his journal that (doctors) respond to pain in this way, “Pain is something they turn from in embarrassed impotence” (p. 108). Later he receives help using the less traditional methods of biofeedback and hypnosis.
“Between 1999 and 2014 the sales of prescription opioid drugs nearly quadrupled. In 2012 alone, physicians issued 259 million opioid prescriptions – enough to give a bottle of pills to every adult in the country” (Scientific American Mind, May/June p. 30). We are a nation in crisis when in comes to the way that we treat pain.
The latest edition of Scientific American Mind takes a look at pain through the lens of the opioid crisis in this country. Chronic pain sufferers and physicians alike have been forced to consider new treatment for chronic pain with nondrug remedies that often center on psychological interventions.
Mindfulness, yoga, and acupuncture are all therapies that are helpful in treating chronic pain. Treatment for both anxiety and depression, which are natural outcomes of pain, is also helpful.
Both Price’s book and the article in Scientific American Mind explore the new areas of biofeedback and hypnosis for treating pain that is chronic. Both areas seem promising. However, they are more about changing the way one thinks about pain than actually lowering the intensity of the physical pain. It is clear that much needs to be done to address the issue in its totality.