By Philip Pizzo, MD | New England Journal of Medicine | September 2013
When I chaired an Institute of Medicine (IOM) committee on “Relieving Pain in America” (1) and then coauthored a Perspective article about the vast human toll and financial burden imposed by chronic pain, (2) I believed I understood the impact of chronic pain. Not only did I have experience caring for children with life-threatening and frequently painful disorders, I also had relatives with chronic pain syndromes and had witnessed the limitations of the medical care system. But it wasn’t until my own year-long journey with chronic pain that I received a higher-level education on the topic.
I was loading a suitcase onto an airport conveyor belt, when an unexpected twist led to my first twinge of back pain. I assumed it would be self-limited, especially since I was in good physical shape: for the past several decades, I’d been running one to three marathons a year and working at demanding jobs, most recently as a medical school dean. I felt impervious to stress and was almost always optimistic. Chronic pain changed all that. Continue reading »