As recently as 20 years ago, people withchronic painwere too often dismissively told that their problem was "in their heads" or that they were hypochondriacs. But in the last decade, a handful of dedicated researchers learned thatchronic painis not simply a symptom of something else -- such asanxiety,depression, or a need for attention -- but a disease in its own right, one that can alter a person's emotional, professional, and family life in profound and debilitating ways. Today, doctors have yet to fully apply this knowledge.
Some 50 million Americans have chronic pain and nearly half have trouble finding adequate relief. But the outlook is good: Ongoing research is revealing the promise of novel treatments, including newmedications, devices and injections, alternative therapies such asbiofeedbackandacupuncture, and an all-encompassing mind/body approach. The point? If patients' whole lives are affected by pain, the treatment must address their whole lives.