Tuesday, November 13, 2012

100 MILLION Americans Suffer from Untreated Pain: Does your healthcare provider have the knowledge base required to treat you at all?

A recent encounter in a Linked-In discussion group has created in me another opportunity as the result of adversity.

I speak for over 100 million Americans with untreated or undertreated pain.(1) Most of us have been psychologically bruised from having a chronic pain or invisible illness.  Usually we assume this is by family member, co-worker or friend, but when it is our healthcare provider it takes on new meaning. 

Is your healthcare provider treating you with respect?

  • We need and deserve a caring approach from our healthcare providers (HCPs).
  • Many HCPs are ignorant to their role in helping us maintain a healthy attitude. I wonder if their inability is because a healthy attitude is missing in their own lives.  
  • Our HCPs should not translate their own judgments on the vulnerable.  Please remember, it is THEIR STUFF (From Broken Body, Wounded Spirit, Balancing the See Saw of Chronic Pain, Fall Devotions)
  • Our personal goals are not different than theirs, we want to live a productive life, care for our loved ones, interact with those we care about, and have the financial resources to keep a roof over our heads, food in the cupboard, and care for our daily needs, including healthcare to treat a chronic condition.  Why does having pain or invisible illness separate us?
  • We do not make up our symptoms; pain creates financial hardship, and threatens our self worth, relationship with others, and our purpose. 

"If you talk to women, they tell you no one is listening, they tell them they are faking," committee chair Dr. Philip A. Pizzo, the dean of pediatrics, microbiology and immunology at the Stanford University School of Medicine, told ABC News. "One of the conclusions of the [Institute of Medicine, IOM] report is that chronic pain is not in your head. It's a disease in its own right." (2)

  • Is your HCP up to date on the research?  Ask them about their most recent continuing education course, when it was, and what it was about? 
  • Have your HCP provide you with your states patient rights. If they are not aware, make them aware.

The biological aspects of chronic pain have been greatly ignored. Physicians should be trained in integrative therapies. (3)   We need more research on the effects of chronic pain, and physicians need to put patient outcome front and center.  It seems they are being brainwashed on how NOT to treat pain.  Two decades ago, recognizing and treating pain was a requirement in the medical community.  Physicians and hospitals were chastised for not recognizing the 5th vital sign.  We must ask, “What has happened to our society to turn this around?”  

If your physician is not treating you with mutual respect, putting your physical, psychological and social needs ahead of their own prejudices and agendas, they are being neglectful.  Write this in your journal, and when you come to grips with it, act on it!

From “Relieving pain in American IOM report, 2012:

“Unequal Treatment cites three types of provider factors that might help account for such disparities in care: “bias (or prejudice) against minorities; greater clinical uncertainty when interacting with racial and ethnic minority patients; and beliefs (or stereotypes) held by the provider about the behavior or health of minorities” (IOM, 2003, p. 9). (It should be noted that a number of the patterns of undertreatment cited above also occur among women and the elderly, both discussed below.) When people perceive discrimination in their lives, that perception in and of itself is associated with greater pain according to a survey of older
African American men (Burgess et al., 2009).”  (4)

Burgess, D. J., J. Grill, S. Noorbaloochi, J. M. Griffin, J. Ricards, M. Van Ryn, and M. R. Partin. 2009. The effect of perceived racial discrimination on bodily pain among older African American men. Pain Medicine 10(8):1341-1352.

Twenty years ago,  I would never in a million years thought I would write such an article, but the culture on pain has changed, and it is up to us to do something about it. If you feel neglected or abused, find a doctor that takes their oath to do no harm seriously,  one who embraces continuing education instead of seeing it as an unwanted task.  Report them and explore resources through your insurance company, Medicare or Medicaid if necessary to make a move.  It is imperative in this culture that we become proactive in our own healthcare, and hold ourselves to a high level of accountability.  But that is a two-way street my friends in pain.  If you are in too much pain or too ill to do so, seek help from someone who can help you. We must hold those caring for us to the same level of responsibility expected from us, this is our only recourse to living our best life despite living in pain.  

(1) According to the Institute of Medicine, more than 116 MILLION Americans suffer from undertreated pain. TIME Health and Family, Report: Chronic, Undertreated Pain Affects 116 Million Americans. By Maia Szalavitz [Statistics Revised]

(2) Huffington Post. One-Third Of Americans Experience Chronic Pain

(3) IOM. 2009. Integrative medicine and the health of the public. A summary of the February 2009 Summit. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

(4) Institute of Medicine. Relieving Pain in America: A Blueprint for Transforming Prevention, Care, Education, and Research.  RELIEVING PAIN IN AMERICA, 2012. Pg 69-70

All blogs, posts and answers are not meant to replace medical advice.

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