In 1996 "only" 77 million Americans were suffering chronic pain annually. Today, that number is more than 150 million! That amounts to a 100% increase in just a dozen years! How is it that, with our modern scientific mainstream medicine, we are suffering more, not less?
Here are some disturbing statistics:
Arthritis 1 in 6 Americans suffers from arthritis. 26 million of those are women.
Back Pain It's the leading cause of disability in Americans under 45 years old. Over 26 million Americans between the ages of 20 and 64 experience frequent back pain, and two thirds of American adults will have back pain during their lifetime.
Cancer An estimated 70% of those with cancer experience significant pain during their illness, yet fewer than half receive adequate treatment for their pain.
Headache Over 25 million Americans suffer from migraines. 9 out of 10 Americans have non-migraine headaches each year.
Impact/Trauma 1 in 3 American adults lose more than 20 hours of sleep each month due to pain.
TMJ/TMD 20 million Americans experience jaw and lower facial pain each year.
Fibromyalgia Close to 4 million Americans (mostly women) suffer from fibromyalgia, a complex condition involving widespread pain and other symptoms.
And along with the human suffering... there's the economic and psychological impact of pain.
Pain costs an estimated $100 billion each year. The American Occupational Therapy Association reports that "pain accounts for one-fourth of all sick days taken by full-time workers, costing the economy $50 billion lost work days and $3 billion in lost wages."
More specifically, health experts estimate that 80% of adult Americans will suffer from chronic back pain at some point in their lives. Back pain alone costs industry more than $50 million annually in absenteeism and lost productivity. Moreover, the Mayo Clinic reports that migraine headaches affect 26 million Americans, 70% of them women.
As if that weren't enough, chronic pain has significant and long-lasting psychological effects. Pain can decrease a person's strength, coordination, independence, cause severe stress, and even lead to depression. As a chronic pain sufferer, you will miss an average of four workdays per year and also shell out some of the $4 billion spent each year on over-the-counter pain relievers!
Chronic pain is persistent, long-lasting discomfort that doesn't resolve itself or respond to routine pain-relief methods. As you can see, it manifests itself in many forms.
The causes of chronic pain are exceedingly diverse. One frequent factor is the development of conditions that accompany aging and cause long-lasting and severe bone, joint and nerve damage. Other factors include falls and accidents, toxins and dehydration, lack of sleep and poor nutrition.
According to the New England Journal of Medicine, "Pain signals generated by special nerve endings are transmitted through the spinal chord to the brain. Because each of us has unique brain circuitry, no two people perceive pain the same way. [Thus,] doctor's can't objectively measure pain. . . . [Therefore,] the root cause of some chronic pain can't be identified."
And while pain-relieving drugs (analgesics) are a mainstay of chronic-pain management, the New England Journal of Medicine cautions against their side effects. "Long-term use of prescription and over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, can adversely affect a person's digestive tract, liver, and kidneys." Not to mention being put at a greater risk of cardiovascular (heart) problems and possible gastrointestinal (stomach and intestine) issues.
As a result, pain clinics across the country believe the first step in many cases should be to taper patients off their dependence on painkillers. Concurrently, many chronic pain sufferers are turning to alternative therapies and are now able to gain some control over their pain by practicing mind/body methods.
But these methods, in and of themselves, are not enough. It is only a take-charge integrated-approach that can ease the suffering and move you toward a cure. Such an approach must include...
Lifestyle Modifications Regulating eating and sleeping times and patterns; not indulging in excessive consumption of alcohol, recreational drugs or sex; fitting exercise (at least walking) into your daily schedule.
Activities in Daily Living Maintaining a proper posture while standing, sleeping, sitting; not clenching the phone between your ear and shoulder; taking a break from the computer every hour or so to refresh, not the flatscreen, but yourself.
Dietary Considerations Neither eating too much nor too little; eating 3 regular or 6 smaller meals, evenly spaced throughout the day; refraining from the so-called "empty calories", such as refined white sugar, white rice, white bread, soda, coffee.
Breathing Fully Being sure that you don't limit your oxygen intake to only the top third of your lungs; taking time every hour for at least 30 seconds of deep inhalations and exhalations.
Relaxing the Body Whatever you need to do to release stress and induce the "relaxation response" to ease strain in muscles and nerves; Suggestions include yoga, qigong, meditation, saunas and long nature walks outside.
Exercise It is important to encourage vigorous blood circulation, remove toxins, improve strength and muscle tone and keep the mind alert. Brisk walking is the best exercise for many chronic pain sufferers because the impact on the whole body is low.
Bottom line? The statistics prove mainstream medicine has no answer for the daily pain that we are suffering. It is apparent, then, that taking personal responsibility for our health, making the necessary lifestyle changes and following the natural road to health is the answer. Give it a try... you may love yourself for it in the morning.
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