Defining Pain

Defining Pain

Yesterday we posted a clip of Amy Skinner talking about her experience with CRPS (Complex Regional Pain Syndrome). Today I got a google alert about a woman who had doctors cut off her foot because she couldn’t stand the pain. While we are working on a film about mind body medicine, we are in no way arguing that the pain this woman felt was imagined. In fact, in many of these syndromes there is a distinct lack of blood flow to the area that causes it to swell and change color. However, as Dr. Turk points out in the clip below, pain does not exist without the consciousness of pain. Unfortunately, in this case, even though the woman had her leg cut off below the knee, she still experienced debilitating pain in the foot that was no longer there.

One of the first shoots that we did for “All the Rage” after I began to recover from my last extreme episode of back pain in 2011 was with Dr. Dennis Turk. We had begun making All The Rage many years earlier, shortly after I had my first bout of extreme back pain, and we shot with Dr. Sarno on and off for a couple of years. At the time we couldn’t figure out how to fund it or to structure it, so it went into a kind of holding pattern. In the end this was a good thing, because as much as we wanted to tell the story at the time, the world wasn’t really ready for it. However, in the 4 or 5 years that it was on the back burner things had changed dramatically.

I went to shoot with Dr. Turk because he was involved with a 2011 Institute of Medicine study of pain that came to some startling conclusions. First off, they declared pain a disease in and of itself, largely because they had no cure for it. They found that none of the current pain treatment modalities work. They also found that the cost of chronic pain had risen to $636 Billion dollars a year. That number dwarfs nearly all other health care costs combined.

These pain syndromes are complex and difficult to deal with. We do not believe that the pain is imagined. Having been stuck on my office floor for weeks unable to even sit up, I know all too well how real it is. We also don’t believe that the only causal factor is the repression of emotions. However, from my own experience, I know that my pain is related to my emotions and my stress. My foot is a literal barometer of my emotional state. It is a mistake for the medical community to minimize this causal element as widely as it does. Dr. Turk has some important and powerful things to say about this connection.

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