The Price Tag on Pain
<P>Chronic pain costs society more than $100 billion a year, but it's often misunderstood and untreated.</P>
Taking Your Medicine continued...
"It's a misperception," says Hahn. "The appropriate
use of pain killers for a specific condition is effective and causes very
little risk of addiction."
Hahn also observes that untreated pain can lead to a real
addiction to alcohol or other substances that can dull sensation. Certainly,
it's better to let your doctor prescribe a medicine instead of doing it
Depending on the condition that causes your pain, other
treatments may be available that don't use medication. For instance, Cowan says
that physical therapy can be tremendously helpful for many painful conditions.
Hahn agrees, and adds that biofeedback and hypnosis can also be effective
The good news about pain, Cowan and Hahn believe, is that
attitudes are changing and doctors now better understand how to treat pain. The
American Academy of Pain Medicine is also currently working on a medical
education project that will help doctors and medical students learn more about
diagnosing and easing pain.
In the meantime, Cowan stresses that those suffering from pain
need to stand up for themselves. "People with pain need to know that
they're not alone and their pain is not in their heads," she says.
"Also," she adds, "you have the right to have your
pain treated and managed. Talk openly with your doctor about what you're
feeling." Because the costs of pain -- emotionally and financially,
personally and societally -- are just too high to ignore.