More than 100 million Americans suffer from pain, according to the Institute of Medicine of The National Academies. Pain affects more Americans than diabetes, heart disease and cancer combined. According a 2009 U.S. Health and Human Services Report, women are more likely than men to experience migraines, neck pain, lower back pain, or face or jaw pain, which are among the most commonly-reported pain conditions.
As many as 50 million American women live disproportionately with one or more chronic pain disorder such as myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, temporomandibular disorders, vulvodynia, endometriosis and interstitial cystitis/painful bladder syndrome, according to The Chronic Pain Research Alliance (CPRA), the country’s first and only research-led collaborative advocacy effort dedicated to this phenomenon called Chronic Overlapping Pain Conditions (COPCs). CPRA provides a wealth of information for women seeking to understand the impact that COPCs has on all aspects of one’s health and quality of life.
My aim with the radio show, podcasts and this blog for Aches and Gain is to raise the volume on the need for a national conversation about pain. Pain specialists, such as myself, who are dedicated to educating the public and our peers, as well as advancing chronic pain research, are growing in number and sophistication. Yet, there remains an enormous gap between the information available to those living with pain and adequate training and treatment of chronic pain conditions.
Most women pain suffers see their family doctor for help, though statistics show the number turning to chiropractors, orthopedists or other specialists is increasing. While your doctor is always a good start, women living with pain may also need to supplement their own education through other resources. Fortunately, the Internet provides a wealth of information.
The American Academy of Pain Medicine’s website provides the latest pain news, research and current advocacy programming for both medical practitioners and the public. Its core purpose is to optimize “the health of patients in pain and eliminate the major health problem of pain by advancing the practice and the specialty of pain medicine.” For those living with pain and wanting a basic overview of the seriousness of pain as an epidemic in this country, AAPM’s facts and figures on pain page is an illuminating starting point.
Women pain sufferers can also find online a rich community of chronic pain blogs and websites that range from intimate, personal journeys living with illness and discomfort to authoritative resources by medical professionals, associations and non-profit organizations.
An Aches and Gains radio guest, Jenni Prokopy, the award-winning ChronicBabe, empowers those living with pain to live life to its fullest despite illness. She covers many approaches based on her own experience, from exercise, diet, and meditation to cognitive therapy, physical therapy and biofeedback training. Diagnosed at 25 with fibromyalgia, and subsequently other conditions including asthma, anxiety, Raynaud’s phenomenon, GERD, and thyroid disease, she dedicates herself to helping her readers “gain new confidence, boost your career, nurture lifelong friendships, have great sex, save more money, and in general, be more fabulous.”
My two-part interview with Jenni is available as a podcast when you sign-up for Aches and Gains On-Demand:
Registered Dietician Nicole Morrissey’s blog, Prevention RD, provides research-based nutrition information for living with diabetes and cardiovascular disease, conditions associated with severe chronic pain. She shares her battles with weight loss, renal disease and bariatrics while helping and encouraging others to eat a balanced diet and to prepare and keep up with a healthy weight management regiment to manage chronic pain. Nicole offers recipes, including her own cookbook.
Being Fibro Mom
Brandi Clevinger of Being Fibro Mom advocates on behalf of parents and their families enduring fibromyalgia, a syndrome that affects the muscles and soft tissue contributing to symptoms such as chronic muscle pain, fatigue, sleep problems, and painful tender points or trigger points. It is her mission to help fibromyalgia sufferers make the transition to fibromyalgia thrivers. Brandi writes and shares helpful tips about daily life with her condition as a mother of four children. Contributing writer for The Fibromyalgia Magazine, she also serves as a member of the board and a program director for International Support Fibromyalgia Network.
Shauna James Ahern and her husband Daniel write Gluten-Free Girl, where they share stories and healthy, pain-coping recipes for readers who must watch what they eat. Shauna lives with Celiac disease, a serious genetic autoimmune disorder where the ingestion of gluten leads to damage in the small intestine. While the condition prohibits sufferers from consuming many foods with wheat, barley and rye, through Gluten-Free Girl, Shauna focuses on “living joyfully” by showing you the variety of meals possible for improved quality of life.
The editors at Spine-Health provide “a comprehensive, highly informative and useful resource for understanding, preventing, and seeking appropriate treatment for back and neck pain and related conditions.” Developed by medical professionals, the site’s blog offers peer-reviewed accurate, unbiased and straightforward articles that cover conditions, treatment and wellness topics related to degenerative disc disease, fractures, sciatica, spinal fusion, spinal stenosis, and spinal tumors, to name a few.
At 29, chronic pain blogger Britt Johnson suffers from a complex mix of conditions that include undifferentiated spondyloarthropathy, rheumatoid arthropathy, Sjogren’s syndrome, scoliosis, and complex migraines. These are further complicated by the fact that most of them are considered invisible illnesses which come with their own set of problems. Britt started Hurt Blogger to combat the isolation and fear she was feeling as she tried to figure out what was happening to her. Her blog is frank and honest and offers a glimpse into her daily struggle.
A Couple Cooks
Eating processed foods can cause inflammation that creates or worsens chronic pain. Husband and wife Sonja and Alex Overhiser sought to change their life by cutting out processed foods and “mostly eating plant-centric meals with occasional seafood or meat mixed in.” A nationally-recognized food blog and podcast, A Couple Cooks explores how to cook seasonal produce at home and integrate deliciously healthy recipes into everyday life. Sonja and Alex share recipes, kitchen tips and insight from celebrity chefs and local farmers across their platform, and serve as a resource for women and pain-sufferers everywhere to help manage symptoms through a diet of whole foods and vegetables.
If you are interested in learning how to regain control of our appetite and nutrition when pain threatens to change them, my two-part interview with celebrated healthy lifestyle expert and nutritionist Lisa DeFazio offers helpful advice. Follow these links to join the Aches and Gains network and listen:
Women experience more pain than men and they are more likely to receive undertreatment, have their pain dismissed as less serious or suffer in silence. While the health profession closes the gap between education ourselves and improving diagnosis and treatment, there are valuable resources and support to be found. Aches and Gains is part of the community committed to a better quality of life for those living with pain. By no means are the blogs and websites shared here an exhaustive list. I will pass along other online resources in future posts.
Remember, no one is immune to pain but together we can overcome it.