July 25, 2010

Pain Research Matters

As someone who recently spent a bunch of time debating whether the pain was worse than the narcotics, as someone who saw my fitness level (and that of others around me) tank because of pain, as someone who literally watched my pain be dismissed because a doctor "couldn't imagine" the cause, as someone who was accused of shirking when pain kept me from something I enjoyed doing, as someone who watched the world go by while I couldn't, I understand how much pain research matters. Do you?

If you need a bit of help, I recommend Zuska's post on her migraines and the failures of available pain treatments.

I am deeply personally acquainted with pain, both chronic and acute, and the list of prescription and OTC meds I have taken over the years in an effort to prevent and control migraines, and treat their pain when they manifest their ugly selves in my life, is stunning even to me: Acetaminophen, acupressure, acupuncture, ambien, amitriptyline, aspirin, chiropracty, coffee with lemon juice, coenzyme Q10, darvocet, demerol, depakote, dilaudid, excedrin, fentanyl, fiorinal, inderal LA, lamictal, magnesium, massage, percocet, petadolex, reglan, seroquel, skelaxin, timolol, thorazine, tizanidine, topamax, toradal, tramadol, verapamil, vivactil, vicodin, vioxx, xanax, zonergran. I am pretty sure this is only a partial list as I did not go through my file with the information on all the meds I’ve ever taken since my stroke odyssey began in 2003 for this post.

Luckily, there are pain researchers who also understand. One of them, JuniorProf, has recently started blogging again.

At McGill 3 very important things happened to me.
1) I was suddenly working in the most dynamic pain research center in the world. The multidisciplinary nature of pain research suddenly became very apparent to me and opportunities to translate basic science findings into clinical results seemed more attainable than in other areas (I’m not saying this is true, just my perception).
2) I started to go to pain clinical rounds. There I finally gained a grasp of the horrific suffering of chronic pain patients. It is one thing to read about it, it is quite another to meet these patients and hear their stories. A consistent story you hear from these people is how they are abused or dismissed by a medical system that all too often does not take pain seriously. This inevitably makes their pain condition worse and by hnb the time they finally start to get relief from their pain they are often out of work, severely depressed and sometimes even suicidal. It is truly heartbreaking.
3) I became a pain patient myself.

Go read the rest. If that's still not enough to understand the importance of pain research, you can move on to JuniorProf's Twitter #painresearchmatters campaign. A few chosen Tweets contributed by others than JuniorProf:
  • because migraines are like a part time job without pay
  • Because pain is not a gift or a blessing or a lesson. It is pain.
  • Pain research matters to me because I'm sick of becoming accustomed to pain as if it's usual, par for the course...
  • Because we want the chance to be the best we can be in our lives.
  • Because it's not in my head.
  • Because pain is not a failure of either morals or fortitude. We never "deserve" to suffer.
  • Because there's very little more invalidating than "You shouldn't be experiencing any pain." *shrug*
Of course, there's a good chance, pain being what it is, that you do understand. You may never have experienced the failures of pain management, but you've almost certainly experienced the successes. So what do you do to tell the world you support pain research?

Well, aside from breaking the taboo of talking about pain, I'm not entirely sure. That is important, though, even if you only reach a small audience of family and friends. You can also demand that studies like the one that got JuniorProf so riled up are put in the context of the research they support. And you can keep reading JuniorProf to find out more about pain research.

It should be a fascinating, and hopefully productive, trip.

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