FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Chronic Pain? Don’t Look for Help From Traditional Medicine

by

It is estimated that up to 66 percent of US women and 45 percent of US men live with chronic pain from spinal disorders like disc disease, pinched nerves and neck pain, to complex regional pain syndromes, fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, and headaches. Low back pain alone affects eight out of 10 people worldwide and is the fifth most common reason people visit the physician.

Yet despite steroid and pain-killer injections, expensive and invasive treatments like spinal fusion, disc surgery, spinal cord stimulators, nerve ablation and the controversial opioid drugs, chronic pain is becoming worse in the US adult population not better.

The truth is, even though pain medicine is now a $300 billion a year business, it mostly offers only short-term solutions and short-term relief to patients sometimes with considerable risks.

For example:

*Spinal surgery fails so frequently in resolving pain, it has created the medical term “failed back surgery syndrome.” No one has ever heard of “failed hip surgery syndrome” or “failed shoulder surgery syndrome” because they don’t exist. One study of Workers’ Compensation patients found the success rate after a second lumbar surgery was only 53 percent and after a third, 35 percent.

*Surgically-implanted spine stimulators, which control pain by exerting electrical signals, have been linked to migration of the leads, lead breakage, infection, unwanted jolting and shocking and more.

*Radiofrequency ablation, commonly called “nerve burning,” can cause infection, numbness and allergic reactions to contrast dye and burning sensations after the procedure. Despite destruction of the apparent offending nerves, pain can persist and migrate to new locations.

* Loosened guidelines and wider prescribing for opioid narcotics have not only created an unprecedented national addiction problem, over time, they can produce the very pain they are supposed to treat–a phenomenon called opioid-induced hyperalgesia.

*Medtronic’s highly promoted Infuse Bone Graft that was supposed to stimulate bone growth and replace damaged spinal disks during surgery but turned out to be linked to side effects like paralysis, nerve damage, respiratory problems, excessive bone growth and worse. Congress found the company downplayed risks and side effects.

*In 2012, sealed vials of the steroid methylprednisolone used for spinal injections from  compounding pharmacies spread a rare fungal meningitis that killed seven people and sickened 64 across nine states. In 2007, the journal Spine reported 78 injuries and 13 deaths from the injections prior to the fungal contamination.

There are three reasons why the $300 billion a year pain “biz” is ballooning: Aggressive advertising, a population that is aging and growing heavier and more sedentary and patients and physicians who too often believe that quicker and more dramatic treatments are always better. Even though the public accepts the necessity of hard work for positive results in sports, academia and most other fields, when it comes to chronic pain, Americans often want a quick fix, like narcotics, surgery, injections and implanted devices– not hard work.

Yet only twenty years ago chronic pain was treated in a different and more effective way. Chronic pain patients used to receive the attention of a whole team of medical professionals, called a “multidisciplinary team.” The team would include a physiatrist (a doctor specialized in physical medicine and rehabilitation), physical, occupational, vocational, exercise and ergonomics therapists as needed, a social worker, psychologist, rehabilitation nurse and even support groups of other pain patients and clergy.

Of course, today insurers will not reimburse such treatment thinking it “too expensive.”  Yet when looking at long-term outcomes, repeated surgeries and re-hospitalizations, worker disability and opioid addiction, the upfront investment in multidisciplinary treatment is actually cost saving.

One reason multidisciplinary team treatment works so well for pain patients is it addresses both mind and body. Also, patients are part of the team and their opinions and input matter; in most pain treatments today, patients are passive and told what to do.

Yes, more people are suffering from chronic pain than ever and there are more treatments available. But it is not clear that pain patients themselves are benefitting.

Moreover, the risks are sometimes considerable.

More articles by:

Martha Rosenberg is an investigative health reporter. She is the author of  Born With A Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp The Public Health (Prometheus).

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
June 23, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Democrats in the Dead Zone
Gary Leupp
Trump, Qatar and the Danger of Total Confusion
Andrew Levine
The “Democracies” We Deserve
Jeffrey St. Clair - Joshua Frank
The FBI’s “Operation Backfire” and the Case of Briana Waters
Rob Urie
Cannibal Corpse
Joseph G. Ramsey
Savage Calculations: On the Exoneration of Philando Castille’s Killer
John Wight
Trump’s Attack on Cuba
Dave Lindorff
We Need a Mass Movement to Demand Radical Progressive Change
Brian Cloughley
Moving Closer to Doom
David Rosen
The Sex Offender: the 21st Century Witch
John Feffer
All Signs Point to Trump’s Coming War With Iran
Jennifer L. Lieberman
What’s Really New About the Gig Economy?
Pete Dolack
Analyzing the Failures of Syriza
Vijay Prashad
The Russian Nexus
Mike Whitney
Putin Tries to Avoid a Wider War With the US
Gregory Barrett
“Realpolitik” in Berlin: Merkel Fawns Over Kissinger
Louis Yako
The Road to Understanding Syria Goes Through Iraq
Graham Peebles
Grenfell Tower: A Disaster Waiting to Happen
Ezra Rosser
The Poverty State of Mind and the State’s Obligations to the Poor
Ron Jacobs
Andrew Jackson and the American Psyche
Pepe Escobar
Fear and Loathing on the Afghan Silk Road
Lawrence Davidson
On Hidden Cultural Corruptors
Andre Vltchek
Why I Reject Western Courts and Justice
Christopher Brauchli
The Routinization of Mass Shootings in America
Missy Comley Beattie
The Poor Need Not Apply
Martin Billheimer
White Man’s Country and the Iron Room
Joseph Natoli
What to Wonder Now
Tom Clifford
Hong Kong: the Chinese Meant Business
Thomas Knapp
The Castile Doctrine: Cops Without Consequences
Nyla Ali Khan
Borders Versus Memory
Binoy Kampmark
Death on the Road: Memory in Tim Winton’s Shrine
Tony McKenna
The Oily Politics of Unity: Owen Smith as Northern Ireland Shadow Secretary
Nizar Visram
If North Korea Didn’t Exist US Would Create It
John Carroll Md
At St. Catherine’s Hospital, Cite Soleil, Haiti
Kenneth Surin
Brief Impressions of the Singaporean Conjucture
Paul C. Bermanzohn
Trump: the Birth of the Hero
Jill Richardson
Trump on Cuba: If Obama Did It, It’s Bad
Olivia Alperstein
Our President’s Word Wars
REZA FIYOUZAT
Useless Idiots or Useful Collaborators?
Clark T. Scott
Parallel in Significance
Louis Proyect
Hitler and the Lone Wolf Assassin
Julian Vigo
Theresa May Can’t Win for Losing
Richard Klin
Prog Rock: Pomp and Circumstance
Charles R. Larson
Review: Malin Persson Giolito’s “Quicksand”
David Yearsley
RIP: Pomp and Circumstance
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail