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February 24th, 2011
09:22 AM ET

Why 70 million Americans are suffering from chronic pain

This week's TIME Magazine cover highlights chronic pain, a condition that affects more than 70 million Americans. Chronic pain is starting to be studied and treated as it's own condition and not merely a symptom of other ailments, as was the case in the past.

American Morning's Kiran Chetry talks to Jeffrey Kluger, Science Editor of TIME Magazine, about TIME's in-depth look at chronic pain and the best remedies for the condition.


Filed under: Health • U.S.
soundoff (13 Responses)
  1. annie

    i take it that neither of you has ever had to deal with chronic pain, i have been dealing with chronic pain for 23yrs now which started from a car accident that led to back surgery {laminectomy L3- S1] i have peripheral neuropathy, radicalpathy, stenosis, severe arachnoiditis, disc degeneration,arthritis, persistant bulges, a leaking theacal sac, and now sjogrens syndrome, i have learned to deal with chronic pain each and every day with the help of my pain management doc who has worked with me to find the right combo of meds to give me some quality of life. We need compassionate heathcare for people suffering with chronic pain, being judged and criticized is the norm when it comes to the medical professionals. Living with chronic pain is real for me and for the seventy six million other people, i am glad chronic pain is finally being discussed but it would be nice if when the nurse in the hospital asked you about your pain level something is done about it, if i was a diabetic and my sugar was low i would not be ignored. So much more needs to be discussed about chronic pain, and doctors and nurses need to be educated so that people like me don't have to be afraid to go to the emergency room when we need to, i am not a drug addict, i am a person living with chronic pain... this article is a good start, but so much more information needs to be talked about, try talking to people who live day in and day out with constant chronic pain, and see the way we are treated or not treated by ignorant doctors, now that would be a great article...

    March 5, 2011 at 2:13 am |
  2. Cianne

    I would give ANYTHING if my Fibromyalgia, Arthritis, Migraines and resulting ailments were CURED as opposed to medicated and "managed"!! Any amount of "looking into" this, I pray will lead to something helpful since it keeps me from working and Social Security claims if you're "young" (40) you can work no matter what. Can this all be suddenly catching among the powers that be in SSA so that a couple hours in this kind of pain can bring them to their senses?? I'd trade anything for a cure and my career back. I miss working. 😦

    March 1, 2011 at 3:05 pm |
  3. Your Friend

    I find that a gluten-free diet helps chronic pain as long as you do not cheat, even once a month. Mind you, for some, it only gives some relief and for others it rids their pain completely. It all depends upon the cause. For most of us, gluten causes inflammation. It's better than "Pharmageddon" (opiat use/over use)!

    February 26, 2011 at 1:53 pm |
  4. Bob Blake

    This is wonderful, but it does not address chronic pain such as RSD/CPRS. I have RSD/CPRS and know many others who have this as well. I have been thru many types of treatments with very limited success. Everyday is a struggle for myself and the many others with this horrible disease. I wish more was discussed about this type of pain and if there is any treatment on the horizon that can decrease the pain which can lead to a better quality of life.

    February 26, 2011 at 12:22 pm |
  5. Julie

    Migraines for decades, and arthritis for decades. That was pain, even told by doctors something wrong with my back. Worked as Hairdresser on a bar stool for 36 years.
    I drank diet cola maybe only 2 liter bottle per week. Then, I met diabetic, who brought home diet creamer, diet yogurt, diet jello, diet this and that,, he brought home many fast foods.
    I, except for migraines and painful aritus in my back one hip and arms.was considered pretty healthy. Within one year, I ballooned up to adding over 150 pounds. Headaches increased. eyesight went dim, migraines increased, neck problems, skin problems, hair fell out, pain in overaries, stomach ringing in my ears, this severe itching of my back and feet., then, I went to sleeping sometimes over 20 hours a day. Would wake up, have a diet cola, or cup of coffee with diet creamer, and would actually get dizzy within minutes. Pains up and down my arms and severe angina. I had this grey look I used to see people meeting their end. I knew I did not have much longer
    Yes, I went to doctors, pain pills, water pills, and now high blood pressure pills. They did tests for MS, for Lupus, whole bunch of tests.
    Was not until I recieved an e-mail called sweet poisons, that I could barely read. All my symptons were on this. Some how these diet sugars turn into something like wood alcohol maybe why my liver was swollen like I was a drinker? I was accused by doctors that I drank, I did not drink. any alcohol.
    Within 3 days I lost 30 pounds. I only now cook most everything I eat. I read lables no Msg. No diet sugars no preservatives. After decades of pain, it suddenly all left. One research man told me that as I lose weight some of the same problems would occur because most toxins are stored in fat cells. As these broke down they would release into my system. Yep, found that out.
    Losing most of this extra weight. it was like breath of fresh life again. Absolutely no pain, until I go on my low carb diet and start losing weight again.
    If you are in pain, go to dietitian, or go read up on food allergies. Cook again, if you go out to restaurant, tell them to leave off the salt MSG and any thing the chef cannot spell. Do not chew gum or mints that are diet .
    I actually have friend that have recovered from arthritus also. Some wer on disability. Now they are healed also. I think people are over weight because of foods and drinks, and, along with me, in pain.
    Not one doctor asked what do you eat? No more pain, I feel like I did at 12 before I started diet sodas. I no longer can go down that aisle at the store.

    February 26, 2011 at 6:58 am |
  6. linda

    i have lived with chronic pain for so long i forget what normal feels like.having both fibriomyliga and crps/rsd...i think it is about time articles like this are read by everyone.the pain is real and not in our minds as people and doctors often think...i hope one day to see time magazine due an article on the worst pain known today-that being crps/or as we call it rsd..

    February 25, 2011 at 10:54 pm |
  7. danielle

    this is crap!!!he doesnt know what is CRS is, cause if he did he would know that the littlest touch would send you in more pain than you all ready are.

    February 25, 2011 at 7:37 pm |
  8. Tara Mandinec

    I am the wife of a man who has suffered INTENSE chronic pain for 15 years after acquiring RSD/CRPS following a work injury. He suffered for 3 years until his diagnosis and not only do laypeople have know idea what this disease is but VERY VERY many in the Healthcare Professions do NOT either. Pain as the 5th Vital sign is not a completely new idea-I myself attended nursing school and acquired a Nursing License 3 years ago during my education we were taught that pain is the 5th vital sign. This 5th sign is the only one largely ignored and UNDERTREATED by medicine. We have the technology to increase the quality of life for pain sufferers yet we chose not to. Why I do not know. I do know however that I have a husband I love dearly who sufferers unimaginable pain EVERY minute of everyday, and from a disease nobody has ever heard of-yet MILLIONS of Americans suffer from. The patients and their caregivers have had to take it upon themselves to educate not only society, but even the medical community as to how to treat their disease. These people as they suffer in pain are putting together Awareness Quilts, conducting walks, seeking anything that they can to promote awareness, not to ease only there pain but so no one else has to suffer from it in the future. Its bad enough that when they acquire this monstrous disease that they are discriminated against by being called drug addicts, drug seekers and worse, they are left jobless, some homeless and many, many alone. Their are children, small innocent children suffering pain even adults could bare for a moment, yet the do. There is NO celebrity championing the cause for them, if there was perhaps they could have a bit more hope. Thank you CNN, Time and your organization for the help in the fight! ANY PUBLICITY RAISES AWARENESS!

    NO AWARENESS+NO RESEARCH=NO CURE
    KNOW AWARENESS+KNOW RESEARCH=KNOW CURE!

    TARA MANDINEC
    Advocate for Chronic Pain Patients

    February 25, 2011 at 4:41 pm |
  9. Kathy

    I have RSD (Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy), the grand daddy of chronic pain conditions. For years I've been viewed as a head case and told that I manifest my own pain. It's about time the medical community wakes up and treats people with chronic pain like human beings not malingering drug addicts.

    I do highly disagree with Mr. Kluegar in his opinions of treatment of chronic pain. I do take narcotics to manage my pain as massage, accupuncture, and biofeedback do not work. The government needs to view chronic pain suffers as just such as well and stop restraining doctors from prescribing, I don't want to be on these drugs but the fact is that I have intractable pain which can lead to a host of other physical issues.

    February 25, 2011 at 4:38 pm |
  10. AnnaTW

    Having lived with chronic pain for 16 years I know how torturous it is when you suffer daily agony, but get little or no help in the medical system simply because most doctors' understanding of the problem is inadequate.

    I'm thrilled to follow the recent breakthroughs and discoveries in pain medicine and sincerely hope that we are getting closer to finding a cure. In the meantime I will keep doing everything I can to try to reclaim my life (and neural pathways) from the pain.

    Thank you TIME Magazine for focusing on the issue of chronic pain.

    February 24, 2011 at 3:14 pm |
  11. David

    Another treatment for chronic pain that many people don't know about is Low Level Lasers. FDA approved for chronic pain, the Erchonia laser is painless, penetrates the skin and stimulating the body's cells encouraging regeneration, which causes pain to decrease on an average of 60-70 percent.

    February 24, 2011 at 2:06 pm |
  12. Cathe LeBlanc Satterthwaite

    It is time the medical profession, pharamaceutical companies, and the public learn, teach and understand how debilitating chronic pain is. I suffer from RSD/CRPS (regional sypathetic disorder, chronic regional pain syndrome), Fibromyalgia, Dystonia and Myofascial Disorder, all from an accident at work. I was a working professional, travelled, was physically active, social, in essence, I was living the life we dream about and now I'm house bound, on very strong medication just to get by, having a serious operation to try to control pain, my husband not only works full time but now has to do everything around the house from food shopping to cooking dinner etc....

    I am happy to hear that people are starting to become aware of chronic illnesses and the media is our best source for awareness of all types of chronic illnesses.

    Thank you,

    Cathe

    February 24, 2011 at 12:57 pm |
  13. Sarah

    As someone who lives with chronic pain, I find it refreshing that we are finally regonizing this as a a condtion. It is beyond time that doctors looked into this and treated it, not wave it off as something that we make up. However, I think that doctors are still overlooking the most important thing, the cause of the chronic pain. I know that I have fibriomyligia and many doctors still look at this as a disease of the mind not the body. They don't know how, nor do they want to treat it.
    I just wanted to say that it is beyond time that chronic pain is looked into. Both in the ER as a fifth assessment and in the doctors office, no matter the treatment they may offer. I know that I for one am glad to hear that this is finally being looked into as a true condition.

    February 24, 2011 at 9:54 am |