Chronic Pain

Chronic pain is a widely used term to describe long term or recurring physical discomfort.  Obviously, pain and even chronic pain are caused by many unrelated conditions.  In the film “Placebo: Cracking the Code” two chronic pain patients were introduced with knee injuries from war.  Since pain is a subjective experience only truly known by and different for every individual, culture and biomedicine can influence this illness experience by better quantifying or making a universal measure of pain.  In lecture and in the film it was shown that there is a pain chart to ask patients to put a number to what they are experiencing, but I think this should be made more available to the public when we are dealing with and communicating pain in a non-medical setting such as with family members at home.  This way they quantified levels of pain will be more accurate because we calibrate it at earlier ages.  Also, for the specific case of war veterans and subjective pain (or other conditions such as post traumatic stress disorder) culture and biomedicine can unite for more effective healing.  If the placebo effect and positive attitudes in general are shown to help healing, the public and healthcare system have many ways in which they could better support and heal returning veterans.

The discovery that fake surgery helped just as much as arthroscopic cartilage repair on knees greatly changes the way chronic pain can be treated and managed.  First it needs to be researched further to find what other conditions it works with.  Secondly it should be used more widely because it will cut down on medical bills and recovery time for the patient.

The connection between belief and healing is a very complex one that we may never fully understand.  Closely related to the relationship of body and mind, we learn more on how they are intertwined all the time.  Likewise, the film on placebos emphasized that the healing power of the mind, or physically and chemically the brain, is much more than imagined, and certainly more than western medicine currently acknowledges.  In my experience neither belief nor medical healing are completely self sufficient.  While some illness have direct proven cures, others such as depression depend more heavily on what the film called “the healing power of our own minds”.

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  1. Nick Flaga says:

    Chronic pain is an interesting condition to examine due to its biomedical, cultural, and psychological aspects. First off, I hope I never experience chronic pain like those we have seen in the course material. It must be miserable to constantly experience such extreme pain, and to have your normal life crippled due to it. However, I would like to more closely examine the psychological and emotional aspect of healing with regard to chronic pain. I believe cultural aspects certainly play a critical role in determining our views and attitudes towards certain conditions and healing. I also thought the placebo experiment with the two veterans with knee pain was very telling and ultimately highlighted the psychological component of healing. Overall, I agree with the notion in “Placebo: Cracking the Code” that our mind is a powerful healing tool. However, this is not to say all conditions of chronic pain are purely psychological. Does it play a critical role? Absolutely. Is it the sole contributor to the pain? I doubt it. With that said, my perception of chronic is largely due to the class materials we have examined this week as opposed to friends, family, and culture. Perhaps my lack of knowledge of chronic pain, is in fact due to this condition lacking amongst my family, and friends.

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