The numbers involved in America’s problem with chronic pain are staggering and probably larger than most realize. More than 100 million Americans suffer from chronic pain, costing nearly $600 billion annually in medical treatments and lost productivity, according to the Institute of Medicine, which adds that the total surpasses that of all people affected by heart disease, diabetes and cancer combined.
“Despite the immense scope of the problem, very little is spent on research to find better ways to manage pain. Chronic pain has become a disease in its own right for many patients,” says Komanchuk, a retired schoolteacher who now works as an educational writer and public relations assistant with Joy of Healing, an alternative healing modality.
Komanchuk, a fibromyalgia sufferer, was dealing with so much pain in her life that, at age 52, she was faced with the prospect of spending the rest of her life in a nursing home. Fibromyalgia syndrome is a complex, chronic condition of widespread muscular pain and fatigue that often includes sleep disturbances, impaired memory and concentration, depression, and other debilitating symptoms.
“When medical leave, morphine patches, codeine, and myriad pharmaceuticals brought no relief, I took an early retirement and tried a different approach in combination with medical treatment,” says Komanchuk, who has since enjoyed more than 13 years of pain-free and prescription-free living after finding an alternative healing therapy that works for her.
Komanchuk, who elaborates on her path to mind-body-spirit wellness at www.jkomanchuk.com, says chronic pain sufferers who cannot find lasting relief should ask themselves the following three questions:
• Have I really tried everything? Komanchuk had been to orthopedic surgeons, neurologists, rheumatologists, psychologists, underwent MRIs, and took all types of medications for her unbearable pain. In a narrow sense, it would seem as though she exhausted her options – until she looked beyond traditional Western medicine. Alternative treatment guided her to recognize the layers of stress throughout her life that she believes were a primary driver of her chronic pain.
• Am I overlooking dietary triggers? The medical community continues to learn more about the benefits of healthy eating and specific diets for people with certain conditions, such as a gluten-free diet for those with sensitivities to gluten. Likewise, it can take years for someone to realize that they are lactose-intolerant or have other food allergies. If you can’t pinpoint the source of chronic pain, and no treatment is working, find out what is healthy for your body. “Eliminating wheat, sugar, and many processed foods helped me,” Komanchuk says.
• Are your mind, body, and spirit in balance? Komanchuk thought she was living the life she was supposed to live, accumulating wealth and possessions, and she had a narrowly defined expectation of others. In reality, however, the priorities guiding her well-being, which are based in the mind, body, and spirit, were skewed. Underneath someone’s physical experience and pain, she says, is often a caldron of unresolved emotional issues.
“At the height of my suffering I often said, ‘If every part of my body that hurt was bleeding, then you could begin to understand what I was feeling,’ ” says Komanchuk. “I just want to urge the millions who are struggling with chronic pain to never give up – and, to keep an open mind for treatment!”