If you’re in a reading kind of mood today, I highly recommend feeding it with a recent STANFORD Magazine feature on chronic pain and some of the research Stanford scientists are conducting to address it.
Chronic pain is usually defined as lasting longer than six months, the article notes, and may be present in 30 percent of adults in the United States. Owing to causes such as complex regional pain syndrome, arthritis, fibromyalgia, migraines or persistent lower back pain, many people turn to opioid medications, which can be addictive. The article notes some stunning statistics, such as this one - “More Americans are now dying as a result of prescription opioid overdose than from cocaine or heroin overdose.”
And this one: "In addition to the cost in human suffering, chronic pain costs the United States more than half a trillion dollars annually in direct medical expenses and lost productivity, according to a 2011 Institute of Medicine report (chaired by former School of Medicine dean Philip Pizzo, MD). This is more than the cost of heart disease and cancer combined."
The article details research at Stanford working to understand the location and physiology of certain types of chronic pain, as well as to help patients overcome the lingering negative emotional effects it may produce.
Sean Mackey, MD, PhD, chief of the division of pain management at Stanford and a professor of anesthesia, said in the article, "When pain becomes persistent, it can become a disease in its own right."
Previously: Retraining the brain to stop the pain, Exploring the mystery of pain, More progress in the quest for a “painometer" and Ask Stanford Med: Neuroscientist responds to questions on pain and love’s analgesic effects