September is “Paim Awareness Month”. According to John Hopkins Medicine (2017), nearly 100 million Americans experience chronic pain.Chronic pain is a debilitating condition that typically occurs as a result of an injury or illness (i.e. back pain, migraines, arthritis, car accident, gastrointestinal ailments, etc.), although, in some cases, there is no obvious cause. Most chronic pain sufferers also experience other health problems like insomnia, poor appetite, extreme fatigue, and moodiness (due to the constant pain). The truth is chronic pain can touch many different areas of your life like your strength, mobility, tolerance, stamina, and flexibility, which is why “Pain Awareness Month” is so important.
It can also affect how you think and feel from minute-to-minute or day-to-day. In addition, being unable to carry out basic functions like grooming and grocery shopping can lead to depression and anxiety. How long does this type of pain last? Well, chronic pain is characterized as any pain that persists longer than 3 months. But, unfortunately, it is not uncommon for chronic pain to linger for years.
It is important to understand that chronic pain is a personal experience. In other words, diagnostic tests that determine if you are experiencing chronic pain are unavailable at this time. Therefore, your doctor has to rely solely on your description of your pain (i.e. severity, frequency, location, symptoms, etc.) to be able to pinpoint the source of it. It is also important to keep a detailed journal of your pain so you can share your findings with your doctor. Is the pain dull or piercing? Is it constant or fluctuating? And, does it cause an achy or burning sensation?
How is chronic pain treated? Well, the primary goal of chronic pain treatment is to ease your pain and improve your ability to function (i.e. perform daily tasks). Several treatment options are available to treat chronic pain; however, it is important to understand that there is no definitive cure for this condition. And, while treatment options may offer some sufferers a level of pain relief, there is no guarantee it will help you. Ultimately, the goal of treatment is to help you better manage your symptoms, so you can resume your life.
If you suffer from chronic pain, you may be treated with pain medications, electrical stimulation, acupuncture, stress-management therapies, tai-chi, yoga, meditation, counseling, nerve blocks, massage therapy, alternative medicines, behavior modification techniques, and/or biofeedback. You can also attend chronic pain support and/or chronic pain self-management groups. These groups are beneficial because they not only provide support; they also encourage you to become an active participant in your own treatment plan (i.e. being informed, having a voice, and making decisions that affect your body). The best way, however, to treat chronic pain is through promoting education through “Pain Awareness Month.”
What is “Pain Awareness Month?”
“Pain Awareness Month” occurs throughout the month of September. Why was it created? Well, it was created to bring awareness to the incapacitating and long-term effects of chronic pain. The purpose is to educate you on the importance of knowing the symptoms of chronic pain, so you can seek the appropriate treatment, and gain some much-needed relief. This month aims to create sustainable and beneficial partnerships between individuals and organizations with the goal of triggering change (through advocacy, awareness, and education) in the area of pain management. The belief is that by recognizing and addressing common pain management barriers, millions of people will finally receive the pain relief they have been waiting for.
How Can You Become More Involved?
There are many ways you can become more involved in bringing awareness to this important cause, such as:
- Tell EVERYONE you come in contact with that September is “Pain Awareness Month.”
- Take a few minutes out of your day to “follow” ACPA on Facebook. Don’t forget to ask your friends to also “follow” them.
- Talk to your doctor, nurse, and/or social worker about the chronic pain symptoms you have been experiencing.
- Ring up your state representatives and community leaders and remind them how important it is to address pain management issues.
- Call (or email) your local television and radio stations and ask them if they are doing an in-depth story on this very important topic.
- Donate to the ACPA – your donation will help them fulfill raise awareness while providing valuable support to chronic pain sufferers.
- Lastly, but certainly not least, “Take Care of Yourself!”
Why is “Pain Awareness Month” Important?
According to the Comprehensive Pain Specialist (CPS), this month is important because of three main reasons: (1) chronic pain shortens the productivity of employees by approximately 4.6 hours, per week, (2) approximately 20% of Americans complain of unrelenting pain and/or discomfort that interferes with their sleep cycle three or more times a week, and (3) the scary fact that eighty percent of Americans will experience back pain during their lives. These factors not only affect your work productivity and sleep cycle; they also affect your self-esteem/self-confidence, mood, relationships, and competence level. Therefore, September is not just a month for clinicians to strengthen their pain management skills, no; it’s also a valuable communication tool, so that state officials, lawmakers, and the public, in general, understand the importance of recognizing chronic pain symptoms and developing effective treatments for chronic pain sufferers. Therefore, it’s a prime opportunity to trigger change by shining a much-needed light on those, who suffer from this “overlooked” illness.