[originally published in KCN, June 2005]
Pain, in its purest form, serves a very definite purpose: it acts as sign, or a signal, to alert us of a problem. It also serves to prevent us from doing things that would, perhaps, make our problem worse. So pain, in a weird kind of way, is a “good” thing. But what about pain “gone bad” — pain that doesn’t go away or comes and goes on an all too regular basis? Well, at the risk of sounding trite, then the pain really is a “pain.” And what escalates this “pain” even more is that its one of the biggest challenges practitioners across the health care spectrum face on a daily basis. We label it “chronic pain.” Plaguing approximately 35% of our country, chronic pain is responsible for categorizing 50 million Americans as partially or totally disabled. What’s more, we don’t really have an adequate way of explaining it or even identifying its true source, let alone finding effective ways to treat it — not a very comforting thought for those buried under a mountain of chronic pain. And while all this may seem dismal, a couple of researchers from “Down Under” have very good reason to offer hope of an effective treatment option that just might help make pain “gone bad”… gone.