Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Pain in the Nation (8.28.07)

Two things I read yesterday stuck in my mind as having to do with each other more than would appear on the surface. One was One Cool Papa's blog and the other was the release of a report on prescription pain medication in the US.

If one is to associate usage with condition, then one would believe that the United States is a nation in a great deal of pain. Prescription painkiller usage has increased by more than 90% in the last 8 years. Oyxcodone prescribes increased by 600%.

Why are we using so much pain medication? Investigation has shown a few things at play here:

1) The number of elderly citizens is increasing, as the baby boomers grow older, the need for pain medication corresponds.

2) Drug makers are spending nearly $30 billion to increase sales and popularize their product.

3) Doctors who once advised that pain was a part of the healing process, now see pain management as part of overcoming illness.

Aside from legitimate usage of these drugs, painkiller abuse has risen significantly. According to ABC News, "A 2004 government study estimated between 2 million and 3 million doses of codeine, hydrocodone and oxycodone are stolen annually from pharmacies, distributors and drug manufacturers. The AP's analysis only included retail sales and did not include estimates of diverted pharmaceuticals."

Another part of this spectrum is the rise in prescriptions for anti-depressants. In 2007 anti-depressants became the most prescribed drugs in the US. Think - how many people do you know that went into the doctor saying they felt tired lately or had a hard time sleeping and left with a prescription for Zoloft or Paxil? Vigorous marketing campaigns are once again a factor in the rise of this drug. The profits are pouring in.

A question I have to ask is--- are we actually in MORE pain or do we want to escape feeling altogether and be "comfortably numb"?

According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, pain is a " complex experience consisting of a physiological and emotional response to a noxious stimulus. Pain is a warning mechanism that protects an organism by influencing it to withdraw from harmful stimuli; it is primarily associated with injury or the threat of injury."

I have to offer here that a great deal of pain experienced by those of us in mid-life and above is caused by DISUSE. You've heard "use it or lose it!" This is true when it comes to our joints. I'm convinced that a large number of knee, hip and shoulder surgeries could be avoided by regular, balanced exercise.

I will use my oldest sister as an example here - her knees are shot. Why? Because she has only used them to walk to and from house to car, car to job, back again...for decades. She has gained a large amount of weight, which applies a tremendous amount of pressure on the knees, feet and ankles and this has led to a susceptibility to injury. Muscle atrophy has weakened the support system around the knees causing the knee structure to wear down until the cartilage is almost gone.

MOST knee injuries are a direct result of poorly conditioned leg muscles. (And injury can occur when you take those poorly conditioned muscles out for a jaunt and jump, run, etc, and overstress them). Here's a breakdown of what's happening from HowStuffWorks:

"Proper functioning of the knee and its kneecap doesn't depend on the alignment of the bones themselves, but on the alignment of the surrounding structures.

Think about the kneecap as a puppet controlled by "strings" -- muscles, tendons, and ligaments. As long as all of the strings pull in just the right way, the kneecap moves back and forth smoothly in its track. But if any string pulls too strongly or not hard enough, the kneecap is pulled out of its track and can no longer glide easily against the thighbone, which can cause pain and may even damage the kneecap.

Because women have wider hips, the upper-leg bone of a woman enters the knee at a greater angle, which twists the knee. This makes women more vulnerable to certain types of kneecap injuries, such as chondromalacia (in which the smooth layer of cartilage that coats the end of the thighbone becomes roughened or cracked), as well as problems with the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL).

If the large muscles in the thigh (quadriceps) are inflexible due to disuse or lack of stretching before exercise or if these muscles are overused, they can cause inflammation of the knee tendons (patellar tendinitis), or "jumper's knee." Muscle imbalances, in which one group of muscles is stronger than another and pulls harder, can cause knee problems, too."

This is the story for hips and shoulders as well.

Americans have become, for the most part, a lazy nation. Eating junk and reaping the resulting diseases from that, being lazy and reaping the pain/injuries that arise from inactivity. If we were more concerned with taking care of our bodies, we would have less need for pain medication. However, that laziness steps in again - instead of DOING something pro-active, one can just head to the doctor and get a prescription for a magic pill to take the laziness induced pain away.

And what about emotional pain? I'm not going to pull a Tom Cruise and say that anti-depressants are all bad. I do believe, however, that our hectic, frantic lifestyle leads to a great deal of anxiety, frustration and depression. The human body can only take so much, our endocrine system isn't invincible.

An aside here: Back in 2004, reports came out that there was Prozac in the UK drinking supply, due to the 24 million prescriptions for Prozac written in Britain every year (to a population of 60 million, think of that percentage!) Apparently, the US isn't the only nation that's getting drugged up.

That's where One Cool Papa's Sunday, August 20th blog fits in. He talks about JOY, what it is, of praising the Lord in spite of our troubles, of trusting in Him and finding comfort in Him. He can turn our mourning into dancing, our weeping into peals of laughter. His August 13th blog also deals with the subject.

Departing from that positive note, I also read a most disturbing blog. Ever read something and feel "unclean" and "dirty" just because you read it? I won't even put a link here - but some lost soul who I keep noticing comes to my page regularly (who my mind wants to scream "WHAT AN IDIOT!" at) wrote a blog pointing to two of his old blogs. One was about women needing to get real and that ALL men cheat, "so get over it." He calls it "reality." Mind you, he does not let other men comment on his blog or join his friend list, so decent, honorable men can't speak up for fidelity and honor. The other was about how he thought it was disgusting that black men would date ugly, obese white women, that they were doing a disservice to their people. (What people, I say? I thought we were evolving on that level and that skin was a non-issue - or should be soon). First thought: This guy is very much in love with himself. Second thought: He hangs around with a skanky group of people who don't answer to any authority higher than their zippers. Third thought: Does he really think that looks are everything and that someone is unworthy of love because they are not pretty or are not thin? What about when you get old, wrinkled? Are you less worthy of love? What if you have a disfiguring accident? Do you not deserve love and respect? Fourth thought: This man does not know what Love is. Fifth thought: It is people like this, with attitudes like this, that bring pain and emotional anxiety on others around them. It is men like this who do a disservice to their gender. {One Cool Papa also wrote a blog a while back that was about a couple of these thoughts, in a round-about way. Everyone should check out his blog, he is a wise and godly man. :)}

Anyhow, the United States is a nation that is apparently in pain - physical and emotional. How much is self-inflicted? And what can each one of us do about pain in our own lives or in the lives of those around us?


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