A ccording to a recent publication by AARP, more than 100 million Americans suffer from chronic pain and 42 million Americans report that pain keeps them up a "few nights a week." The cost of chronic pain in both treatment and lost productivity is estimated at $635 billion annually.
Many seniors suffer with chronic pain, and historically the treatments have included surgery or medication, and sometimes both. Fortunately, a recent explosion in research has led to some game-changing developments in understanding the nature of chronic pain and how we choose to manage it.
The research suggests that chronic pain is not just a symptom, but rather a disease in itself. The studies indicate that with long exposure to pain, our nerves may hardwire the pain into memory so that even if the cause of the pain is surgically removed, we still hurt.
Typically, the treatment for pain has been aspirin or ibuprofen to reduce inflammation or pain blockers, such as codeine and morphine, for more acute cases. Due to the results of these recent studies, conventional medicine is opening up to the possibility of more integrative medical solutions that combine mainstream, orthodox medical therapies with complementary alternative medicine from both ancient and contemporary practices. Alternative medicine includes using acupuncture, meditation, diet, massage and others as healing tools.
Integrative medicine takes into consideration the whole person — body, mind, spirit and lifestyle — and seeks the best solution among all appropriate therapies. Integrative medicine is a partnership between patient and practitioner where both work together to facilitate the body's own healing response and incorporate both conventional and alternative medicine.
A study by The Bravewell Collaborative reported that in 29 U.S. integrative medicine centers, "75 percent of patients reported success using integrative practices to treat chronic pain and more than half reported positive results for gastrointestinal conditions, depression and anxiety, cancer and chronic stress."
Medicare, which most seniors rely on for health insurance, seems slow to catch on to the benefits of integrative medicine, however. Integrative treatments like nutrition therapy are covered by Medicare in certain circumstances, but others, like acupuncture, are not. Supplemental insurance must be purchased to cover integrative medical treatments and other preventive therapies.
At this time it is unfortunate that integrative medicine is not what most Americans encounter in hospitals and clinics, but as positive reports from the use of integrative medicine continue to be published by prestigious institutions like Stanford University Center for Integrative Medicine and Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, maybe more doctors will be willing to offering it — and then perhaps the government will catch on.
Liza Horvath has over 30 years' experience in the estate planning and trust fields and is the president of Monterey Trust Management, a financial and trust management company. This is not intended to be legal or tax advice. If you have a questions call 646-5262 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.