Tackling Pain

I was a reporter/photographer at a TV station in West Virginia almost 25 years ago. That means I not only reported the stories, I also shot all of the video for the piece.

One Sunday morning, as I was lifting a camera case into the news car, I felt a sharp twinge in my back. It hurt, a lot. However, I needed to get to the story so I kept going. I covered that story and a couple others. I came back to the station, wrote the newscast, anchored the show, and went home. I took some ibuprofen along the way, but I made it through.

The next morning was another matter. I could barely get out of bed. I wasn’t sure what was wrong, but I crawled to the phone and called my doctor. Eventually, in a lot of pain, I made it to an afternoon appointment and walked out with a prescription for muscle relaxants, stronger ibuprofen, and a warning. The doctor told me that since I had injured my back, I was always going to be at risk for doing it again.

After a day in bed, the pain eased. But sure enough, ever since that weekend, every few months, I do something that aggravates the injury. The pain lasts for a couple days. Fortunately the past few months have been pain free, but I started thinking about all of my back issues as I covered my most recent North Carolina Science Now story about chronic pain. 

During an interview, Dr. Mark Zylka, Associate Professor of Cell Biology and Physiology at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, told me, “Pain isn't pleasant but it is needed because it is the body's way of saying there is a problem. Chronic pain is another matter."

My back pain is bothersome, but it certainly isn’t chronic, which is defined as pain that lasts longer than six months. About 100 million Americans suffer from chronic pain and roughly 80% of them try to suppress the pain with over-the-counter drugs or prescription medication from a local physician. The condition is estimated to cost the economy around $600 billion per year in medical treatments and lost productivity.

So while my North Carolina Science Now story What A Pain! dealt with a possible medical breakthrough in the treatment of chronic pain, here are some tips doctors have shared with me over the years to deal with the type of pain issues I have. I’m not sure if there is an official medical term to label it. I call it occasional, nagging pain.

  1. Stretching
  2. Regular exercise
  3. Massage therapy
  4. Hot or cold packs
  5. Over-the-counter medicines
  6. Prayer/meditation
  7. Sound sleep/relaxation

- Frank Graff

Frank Graff is a producer/reporter with UNC-TV, focusing on North Carolina Science Now, a weekly science series that airs Wednesdays, beginning in August 2013, as part of North Carolina Now on UNC-TV. In addition to producing these special segments, Frank will provide additional information related to his stories through this North Carolina Science Now Reporter's Blog!

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