More than 100 million Americans suffer from chronic pain, costing nearly $600 billion annually in medical treatments and lost productivity, according to the Institute of Medicine, which adds that the total surpasses that of all people affected by heart disease, diabetes and cancer combined.
Despite the immense scope of the problem, very little is spent on research to find better ways to manage pain. Chronic pain has become a disease in its own right for many patients.
As a fibromyalgia sufferer, I was dealing with so much pain in my life that, at age 52, I was faced with the prospect of spending the rest of my life in a nursing home. Fibromyalgia syndrome is a complex, chronic condition of widespread muscular pain and fatigue, that often includes sleep disturbances, impaired memory and concentration, depression and other debilitating symptoms.
When medical leave, morphine patches, codeine and myriad pharmaceuticals brought no relief, I took an early retirement and tried a different approach in combination with medical treatment. Since, I have enjoyed more than 13 years of pain-free and prescription-free living after finding an alternative healing therapy that works for me.
I elaborate on this path to mind-body-spirit wellness at www.jkomanchuk.com. Chronic pain sufferers who cannot find lasting relief should ask themselves the following three questions:
1. Have I really tried everything? I had been to orthopedic surgeons, neurologists, rheumatologists, psychologists, underwent MRIs and took all manner of medications for my unbearable pain. In a narrow sense, it would seem as though I exhausted my options — until I looked beyond traditional Western medicine. Alternative treatment guided me to recognize the layers of stress throughout my life that I believe were a primary driver of my chronic pain.
2. Am I overlooking dietary triggers? The medical community continues to learn more about the benefits of healthy eating and specific diets for people with certain conditions, such as a gluten-free diet for those with sensitivities to gluten. Likewise, it can take years for someone to realize that they are lactose-intolerant, or have other food allergies. If you can’t pinpoint the source of chronic pain, and no treatment is working, find out what is healthy for your body. Eliminating wheat, sugar and many processed foods helped me.
3. Are your mind, body and spirit in balance? I thought I was living the life I was supposed to live, accumulating wealth and possessions, and I had a narrowly defined expectation of others. In reality, however, the priorities guiding my well-being, which are based in the mind, body and spirit, were skewed. Underneath someone’s physical experience, pain is often a cauldron of unresolved emotional issues.
At the height of my suffering I often said, “If every part of my body that hurts was bleeding, then you could begin to understand what I am feeling.”
I just want to urge the millions who are struggling with chronic pain to never give up — and, to keep an open mind for treatment!”
(About the writer: Janet Komanchuk is a retired school teacher who has experienced the remission of chronic, debilitating fibromyalgia, which was the result of many overlapping stressors and unresolved issues throughout her life. While weathering extreme fatigue and pain, she’d tried everything from traditional Western medicine to alcohol consumption and various holistic treatments. She is now pain free without any use of prescription medication. She is an educational writer and public relations assistant with Joy of Healing Inc., in Valrico, Fla.)