At any given moment, thirty-four million Americans suffer from chronic pain. Many have lower back pain or endure the pain of arthritis. Millions more suffer muscle and tissue injury, or painful debilitating illnesses like diabetes, fibromyalgia, or cancer. You or someone you know might easily be one of those pain sufferers. The policeman on medical leave for postsurgical pain from a repaired ruptured disc; the advertising executive with a nagging sports injury to her elbow; the bone cancer patient who repeatedly hears doctors tell him "there's nothing more we can do for your pain" and realizes he'll have to suffer for the rest of his life; the grandmother with arthritis who has been told "you simply must learn to live with the pain." Most chronic pain sufferers have spent years searching for relief without success. And as baby boomers enter middle age, while also caring for aging parents, there are more pain sufferers than ever before.
Pain can ruin your life. It can stop you from going to the movies because you can't sit still for two hours at a time. It can keep you from going to a museum because you can't stand, or walk, for very long either. Pain can distract you from your work, from taking proper care of your children, from concentrating on something as simple as reading or watching television. Chronic pain can depress you, frighten you, and make you irritable. Ultimately, pain can overwhelm you, and not only interfere with your normal life, but destroy it.
By the time a patient arrives in my office, he or she has usually spent weeks, months, or even years searching for relief. Most of my patients have been to several doctors and health-care providers who were not able, or willing, to help at all. Time and time again, they heard doctors tell them "you'll just have to learn to live with it." Many times, in a matter of days -- sometimes even in just hours -- my treatment methods can turn their lives around. I remember a patient, Brian D., a fifty-five-year-old lawyer who had suffered pain from a herniated disc for nearly four years. As he began his first day in years without pain, Brian telephoned to ask me an urgent question: "Why has it taken so long to find relief ? How come no one told me about these cures sooner?"
There are several answers to these questions. One is that pain cannot be seen by a doctor, or in a test. Pain has never been given a satisfactory definition, even among medical professionals. Pain is a personal thing, different for every patient. As a totally subjective symptom, therefore, pain is often misdiagnosed and treated incorrectly. Some even believe that chronic pain is all in a patient's head, perhaps because so many people with pain are miserable. Many doctors don't want to deal with a patient's pain, because it is often a challenge to treat it successfully. Other doctors don't see pain management as a vital element to health care -- it's not an emergency or a life -- threatening illness. Managed-care organizations frequently delay or deny coverage outright for pain treatment. I once had a patient with a serious disorder known as reflex sympathetic dystrophy who said to me, with only a little sarcasm, that he wished he had cancer, so that his HMO would approve payment for the treatment. With so little respect even from the medical industry, it's little wonder pain patients feel guilty, as if they are responsible in some way for their condition.
Another reason people don't know enough about pain management is because, for many years, there were no effective treatments routinely available for pain. This is no longer true. Pain cures exist now, just as there are modern remedies for high blood pressure and heart disease. Many of these treatments are very new, so new that some doctors are not even aware of them. Even if the exact cause of your pain cannot be found, there are safe medications that work, and a program for you to follow that will heal you. I have refined these techniques in what I call the Painbuster program. Can you remember what it was like to be pain-free? This book will lead you back to a lifestyle you may have thought was gone forever.
The startling reality is that treating pain separately as a disease to be cured in and of itself, and not merely as a symptom of some other illness -- is a new idea in the medical community. Only in the last few years has pain management become a certification of the American Board of Medical Specialties. Even now, there are not many pain specialists in the United States, or anywhere, for that matter. But the medical treatment of pain is growing rapidly, in pain centers like the one where I work, and in the offices of internists and general practitioners across the country. People want an end to pain and, finally, so do their doctors.
I have been researching and treating pain my entire medical career. I have seen astounding medical advances in this specialty, especially in the last five years. About a year ago, I began to realize that my success with patients in New York could help people everywhere, if they were able to learn the Painbuster four-step program in a book like this. After all, not everyone can receive a doctor's referral to a pain center, much as I might wish they could. But everyone can ask his own doctor about these breakthroughs, some of which are beginning to become standard practice by general practitioners and internists in the treatment of pain. With this book, I hope to disseminate the latest and most current information, and to offer readers everywhere the tools to cure their chronic pain, once and for all.
The more options and tools you have, the better and faster you will be cured. I call the variety of treatment modalities an "armamentarium" against pain. That's an old military term from my days at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. But it's what I can offer readers and pain sufferers -- an arsenal of specific, innovative treatment options. Let me help you dismantle the frustrating maze of dated information regarding pain treatment. No matter what your disease or condition, you can be pain-free for the rest of your life.
Copyright © 2001 John Stamatos, M.D.