An estimated 86 million Americans struggle with chronic pain. The treatment options are many, ranging from commonly prescribed medications and steroid injections to physical therapy, massage and meditation.
Recently the media has been all over the New-England manufactured contaminated steroid drug that has sickened nearly 200 people nationwide and left 15 fatalities in its wake.
The Boston Globe reported that many patients eligible for injections to deal with pain have declined treatment based on these findings. The article featured Dr. Carol Hartigan, a physiatrist at the spine center at New England Baptist, who said “Clinicians and patients can really exaggerate the response out of hope. We want the quick fix sometimes” (Contaminated Drug Draws Attention to Steroid Injection Procedure).
It seems our healthcare system has programmed people to look for quick fixes in dealing with pain, rather than question the procedures and prescriptions they are given. The new documentary film “Escape Fire” brings out some startling points about our healthcare system:
- The US spends $300 billion a year on pharmaceutical drugs
- The United States and New Zealand are the only two countries in the world who can advertise prescription drugs to the public
- A doctor: “When medicine became a business, we lost our moral compass.”
- More soldiers died last year from non-combat injuries than during war
- An Afghan war survivor and sergeant: “I’d rather be shot again than go through the withdrawal symptoms of coming off all of the pain medications I was given.”
One way doctors at Walter Reed Hospital are now working to help soldiers with PTSD and pain is through alternative approaches such as yoga, meditation, and acupuncture (Read: Healing Soldiers Through Meditation). The fact is, there’s no “miracle drug.” Just take a look at placebo research and you might inch your way towards this conclusion.
For some historical context, the placebo effect was born on a beach in southern Italy during World War II. While US troops suffered heavy German bombardment, doctors and nurses tended to the soldiers’ casualties. One nurse, while assisting an anesthetist named Henry Beecher, couldn’t bring herself to tell a wounded soldier that their morphine supply was dangerously low. Instead, she filled her syringe with a saline solution and told the soldier he was receiving a powerful pain killer. His pain was relieved and the sham injection prevented the onset of shock.
After the war, Beecher didn’t ignore this “test case.” He went on to make significant reforms in the field of drug testing, suggesting the use of placebos to see whether the drugs were in fact effective.
According to Wired, “After decades in the jungles of fringe science, the placebo effect has become the elephant in the boardroom” (Placebos are getting more effective. Drugmakers are desperate to know why). And when it comes to pain, the findings all point to how a person’s mental state contributes to outcomes.
Pain can’t be measured. It’s different for each individual. So isn’t it logical to look at the role of a person’s thought, rather than their body, to eradicate pain?
Here’s an example of how a doctor glimpsed that the pain his patient was experiencing was in fact mental, not physical:
“A woman suffering from debilitating pain was referred to him from the local ER. When she arrived at his office, she was barely able to make it onto the exam table . . . she began describing her pain. However, he had a sense that whatever injury she was suffering from was not physical. It was then that she told him about an affair her husband was having and how this reminded her of an earlier experience when she was brutally attacked by two men” ( The Future of Health: Tech-Based or Thought-Based?).
In my spiritual practice, I’ve seen how managing my thoughts through prayer and the knowledge that God’s power is infinitely greater than anything else brings about changes in all areas of life, including physical pain.
This statement made by Christian Science founder Mary Baker Eddy in her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, has informed people around the globe to deny pain power: “Banish the belief that you can possibly entertain a single intruding pain which cannot be ruled out by the might of Mind, and in this way you can prevent the development of pain in the body.”
You can test that statement, too. Just try it.