The Institute of Medicine has estimated that more than 100 million Americans, or 20% of the population, struggle with chronic pain, costing billions in treatment and lost productivity each year. As such, chronic pain is the No. 1 contributing factor to individuals seeking medical care. With so many impacted by the condition, chronic pain is listed as an epidemic by many medical institutions. Chronic pain is defined as lasting at least six months and can be experienced for years.
As the number of individuals experiencing pain steadily increases, it poses the question: Is it the same for everyone? One of the best explanations of pain comes from Henri Roca, MD, director of community engagement for The Whole Health Institute in Arkansas. Dr. Roca states that pain is “the final interpretation of an experience that incorporates past memory, all physiological imbalances and expectations.” In other words, pain is more than skin deep; it’s input from the mind, body and experiences that creates the sensation of pain. Dr. Roca also notes that it’s different for each individual who experiences the sensation. Indeed, pain is a diverse creature touching and distinctly impacting everyone.
Several factors contribute to the onset of chronic pain including diet, stress and activity levels, along with mindset, socioeconomic status and location. Individuals living at or below the poverty line and in rural settings have an increased rate of chronic pain, as well. Adding to the conversation is the fact there are several documented types of pain: somatic, neuropathic and visceral. Each type of pain impacts the body and person differently, and thus pain becomes an even more unique experience.
Due to the long-term effects of chronic pain and the reduction in quality of life, anxiety and depression are common side effects. Interestingly enough, long-term depression is also associated with chronic pain, playing into the concept of the mind-body connection. So, it’s a fact that when you address a client’s pain in your treatment room, you’re also addressing their overall well-being.
Sherrie Tennessee has more than 16 years in the spa industry, having held positions as a massage therapist, spa owner, speaker, educator and author. She is currently the education director of SpaSOS, a spa and wellness education and consulting firm.