Telling our stories can also raise awareness of how far we-both
men and women-haven't come in actually treating chronic pain, especially the
most severe and frequent forms, despite significant strides in understanding its
neurochemistry and triggers. Popular media reports on pain, often in the form of
news-magazine cover stories, are often devoted to overpraising the latest
so-called wonder drug (read: "It's so new that we don't know its side
effects yet") as pain patients' savior of the day. Providing testimonials
are a carefully selected group of patients, very often fed to journalists by
pharmaceutical companies and the doctors interviewed. As a result, pain patients
who aren't cured by the latest "miracle discovery" or who can't solve
their pain through sheer gumption and force of will feel their already
debilitating sense of isolation and self-doubt compounded.
In 1979, in that poster board display, I summarized the major
treatments of pain of that era: acupuncture, drugs, and biofeedback. Today, more
than twenty-five years later, despite some notable gains, this is still the
case. Although modern medicine allows us to replace severed limbs and excise the
most precariously placed brain tumors, our effectiveness in treating chronic
pain and many other disabling invisible illnesses has not significantly
advanced. In fact, in reality, we are hardly better off than in 1979 B.C.-when
the people whom we know today as the leather-faced mummies in museums walked the
earth, all too conscious of their humanity because of their crushing toothaches,
their shingles, their labor pains, their cluster headaches.
When I was twelve and unburdened by chronic pain, I couldn't yet
describe the full experience, neither physically, emotionally, nor spiritually.
This wasn't possible until years later, when I was twice that age and one
continuous headache gradually started to define itself and then take nonstop
residence behind my left eye and in my left temple, like a bad, inconsiderate
roommate who never leaves the apartment to give you peace. I then found myself
starting a trial, as well as going on trial, as a chronic pain patient. I was in
the odd position of playing for real that board game that I had devised so many
years ago, following another circuitous, unpredictable, and ultimately
(somewhat) enlightening path.
BookBrowse Note: The statistics below are not from a particular chapter of All In My Head,
but were provided by the publisher as background information for potential
interviewers. The information is included here because, firstly, it
contains a lot of interesting facts and stats, and secondly it provides a useful
overview of the book itself.
At least 28 million Americans battle chronic headaches.
About 18 percent of women experience migraine, compared to 6 percent of
men. (However, until puberty, the rates of headaches in boys and girls are
about even, with boys experiencing slightly more by some accounts.)
Up to one-third of women between the ages of 25 and 55 have migraine (with
hormones exacerbating the problem during reproductive years).
However, hormone fluctuations do not fully explain migraine as a
"women's issue," as 14 percent of post-menopausal women have
Chronic Daily Headache (headache at least 15 days/month
lasting at least 4 hours per episode)
4-5 percent of the population has what can be diagnosed as CDH.
0.5 percent of the population (like the author) suffers from CDH that is constant.
10 percent of women in reproductive years have CDH.
CDH accounts for a majority of those seeking care at headache clinics.
As with other chronic pain syndromes, the majority of those with CDH are
As with depression and other types of chronic pain, another major variable
besides gender for having CDH is socioeconomic status. Those of lower
education levels and income have higher incidences of CDH. One reason is
that the pain may impair education and earning potential.
Sufferers of CDH are also likely to have anxiety, depression and/or
fatigue, because of a common underlying brain chemistry of all these
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