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Kristin Hayes, R.N.

Why Living In Pain Will Eventually Kill You

By March 31, 2012

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There are shocking statistics regarding the number of Americans who suffer from chronic pain,  in thousands of years science hasn't come up with a really great way to treat chronic pain. Migraines, fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, back pain, sinusitis and other conditions are major culprits affecting (according to most studies) about one in three adults. Pain is the number one reason that people call in sick to work, yet many doctors are either reluctant or inadequately trained to treat it. What you might not realize is that living a life full of pain will shave years off your lifespan.

The pathway in the brain that registers pain has a cascading effect, triggering multiple neurotransmitters and hormones. This pathway is complex, which is one of the reasons that experts have not found the key to treating chronic pain. One of the key hormones in this process is cortisol, you may know it as the stress hormone or the "fight or flight" hormone. Once cortisol is released many changes in our bodies occur; our heart beats faster, our blood pressure goes up, many internal organs slow down as blood is shunted to skeletal muscles, our pupils dilate, even our immune system is suppressed. When released in infrequent  bursts cortisol functions as a self preservative so to speak, (it gives us what we need to run away or fight back), when released constantly over long periods of time it can have detrimental effects on our health including heart problems and high blood pressure, even a reduced ability to heal. Researchers have even been able to predict which heart patients will live the longest by measuring their cortisol levels. Patient's with less cortisol live longer.

So why are doctors afraid to treat pain? Well, abuse is the first factor that usually comes to mind but the truth is that very few patients using narcotics to legitimately treat a painful condition actually become addicted. The other reason is that there are so many undesirable side effects with narcotics, and unless you find the root cause of a person's pain it's like using a band aid on an amputated arm - it just doesn't work long term; all good reasons to seek the correct treatment. You never know, all those migraines might be the result of a very treatable sinus problem. If you can't find the cause of your pain, cortisol is just one factor proving that it is perfectly reasonable to insist that your doctor treat it anyway.

April 1, 2012 at 6:48 am
(1) Migravent says:

Preventative migraine therapy is the best course of action-
Migravent uses natural butterbur, magnesium, riboflavin, and coenzyme Q10 to prevent migraine attacks without side effects.


April 1, 2012 at 10:23 am
(2) typingterror says:

After many years of trial and error with meds that caused me more problems than help a trip to ER when I was unable to bear weight on foot on side I have pins in hip prescribed me oxycodone/acetaminophen because she could not give me an injection because I was driving was the key for my relief. Yes, doctors do hate to prescribe this but when they monitor my small usage I have no problem getting prescriptions now. Normally I take half tablet at night which helps give me a very refreshing sleep rather than twisting and turning to exacerbate the pain and I am good to go the next day. I occasionally have bad flare ups which I usually can predict because I have carried something too heavy, internally or externally rotated my leg with pins in hip, etc. but it has given me my life back.

April 1, 2012 at 9:06 pm
(3) BBoots says:

I think the point needs to be made that just prescribing drugs is NOT “treating” pain. It is merely managing pain symptoms. Sadly, most doctors are willing to settle for pain management, rather than do the word needed to find the actual source of pain and cure that. After more than 30 years of being treated by “pain managemnt,” I was blessed to find Professor Brian A. Rothbart (http://curingchronicpain.com) who correctly diagnosed the actual source of my pain and corrected it without using drugs or surgery. Result–no more chronic pain. don’t settle for drugs and surgery. demand a doctor that will help you find the actual source of your pain.

April 2, 2012 at 9:38 pm
(4) Katherine Wolfe says:

This is the part of the equation that people don’t seem to really understand. If a doctor isn’t prescribing adequately for pain, they ARE doing harm. Demonstrable, physical, measurable harm. I think we should at least realize that when we make it more difficult for people in pain to get relief we will pay a higher price in their mortality.

April 3, 2012 at 11:26 pm
(5) ent says:

It’s true that managing symptoms with pain meds long term is not a good option. The best option is to fix the root cause. However, many people are still living in chronic pain for years with no answers as to the source. Many of these people IMO are better off on narcotics than living with the ramifications of chronic pain. In fact, I would go as far to say, that there are people living in pain who have such a low quality of life that it would be far preferable if they were put on narcotics even with the (low) risk of becoming addicted because being a drug addict would be better quality of life than their current state.

Unfortunately doctors aren’t willing to aggressively treat pain and some individuals are so desperate for relief that they will manipulate the system to get what they need. This is an awful cycle which causes distrust and less willingness on the part of doctors to prescribe these medications which in turn creates MORE patients who seek other ways to get narcotic pain meds.

Many doctors are also uneducated on giving proper pain relief and don’t understand that there is a difference between addiction, tolerance and dependence. More education in the medical community is necessary and unfortunately those who abuse pain meds for recreational use make it harder and harder for people in legitimate pain to get treatment.

Sadly there are many more problems than just the physical effects associated with being in chronic pain. People are unable to care for their children, take a huge financial blow when they are rendered unable to work, and many marriages disintegrate under the pressure.

August 8, 2012 at 1:58 pm
(6) Chelle M. says:

I’ll be 43 in September.
I’ve been dealing with chronic chest pain for a year and a half. I’ve had EKG’s; multitudes of lab work (cardiac and otherwise); CAT-scans, X-rays. I’ve had ultrasounds (all body organs). The only thing they found was Gallstones but no inflammation of the gallbladder itself.
I have had one breast biopsy which I thought would help the left side rib/chest pain but it didn’t. The biopsy was negative -good news, but the pain persists.
I have a HIDA scan scheduled for next week to check the function of my gallbladder. I also have GERD (discovered by endoscopy and colonoscopy) and am on Rx ant-acids for that, plus I take a pro-biotic and DGL on a daily basis as well as cardiac grade fish oil (expensive stuff, but worth it). I do have high cholesterol, but I’m getting it down. BP is typically 116/68 – 120/75.
I don’t exercise nearly as much as I should due to the pain.

No one seems to know what’s going on. My doctors just continue to repeat the same ol’ tests, finding nothing. I’ve even asked about possible pinched nerves but they look at me like I’m stupid.

The only traumatic event I’ve had recently was a year and a half ago when I miss-stepped and fell down the stairs on my back. My tail bone still suffers from this fall.

I’ve desperately tried to get my PCP to listen. I’ve gotten second opinions. I am frustrated and my quality of life really has declined because of this constant pain. I have been prescribed everything from Oxycodone to Lortabs to Vicadin. I don’t WANT pain meds. I want a cure.

August 8, 2012 at 5:29 pm
(7) Trey says:

Before I started pain management using opiate therapy my blood pressure was very high (161/103). After using morphine to control my chronic pain my blood pressure was lowered to (119/72).
Yes. Chronic pain does have a negative affect on your health which in turn will lower your life span.
For good information on opiate therapy visit http://www.livinginpain.org.
Don’t hurt, seek out a pain management doctor, today!

March 21, 2014 at 6:11 am
(8) Lindalyon says:

I am in chronic pain almost a year due to a car accident. Thank goodness there are great doctors that realize constant pain is real and that they can treat it with medication. I still cry because pain is constant but if I didn’t have medication I would rather not be here. Yes it is harder to get, if yr a day or two early in filling medication or have to take a little more than prescribe because you have worse days, the pharmacy will not fill scripts early. It is terrible that people do abuse these drugs and persons with significant pain, do suffer. Thank GOOOODNESS for GREAT pain management DRS that know we hurt!!!

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