Chronic pain is a formidable foe. It’s invisible and can’t be measured by an X-ray or a blood test. Sometimes it has no identifiable cause and yet it can ruin lives, affecting everything from employment to family relationships.
“Pain Matters,” a new documentary airing on the Discovery Channel, illuminates what it’s like to be one of the millions of Americans suffering with chronic pain, often defined as recurrent pain that lasts more than three months.
In the documentary, we hear from six people living with the condition, including a Navy veteran who sustained debilitating injuries in Iraq, and a mother of two who is still hurting from a car accident more than 20 years ago. Their testimony will surely strike a chord with anyone who has struggled with a bad back, arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome or recurrent headaches.
Clinicians also provide insight on the timely subject of pain management. Last month, the Food and Drug Administration recommended tighter controls on how physicians prescribe the most commonly used narcotic painkillers, such as Vicodin.
For more on this topic, we turned to Penney Cowan, 65, founder and executive director of the American Chronic Pain Association, one of the experts featured in the documentary. Here is an edited transcript of our interview:
Q: What is your personal connection to pain?