For many people like Roberta Balani, chronic pain is a way of life. Balani has Rheumatoid Arthritis. She’s constantly in pain.
“It had gotten continuously worse up until about three or four years ago, I really couldn’t hardly drive,” she said. “I was just confined to the house. I had a car, but somebody else would be driving it.”
Aside from the arthritis, she also has osteoarthritis and chronic fatigue syndrome. Balani used to take up to eight Tylenol a day to control the pain. Then she came to see Dr. Gennady Gekht, a pain management doctor, who changed her way of life.
“She is going to have pain the rest of her life,” Dr. Gekht said. “The goal with Roberta was not just to reduce the pain, but to allow her to walk, allow her to be independent.”
There are a lot of people like Balani out there. According to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, 100 million Americans suffer from chronic pain.
And a survey by the National Institute of Health Statistics indicates low back pain was the most common at 27 percent, followed by severe headache or migraine pain at 15 percent, neck pain at 15 percent and facial ache or pain at 4 percent.
September is Pain Awareness Month and is a time when various organizations work to raise public awareness of issues of pain and pain management.
Balani is very aware of her pain. To help her cope with it, Dr. Gekht gave her a small pain pad that administers the medicine periodically. Now she can dump the Tylenol.
“It allows her to get medication throughout the day, without the fluctuations, so it keeps her pain under control,” Dr. Gekht said.
And that is perfect for Roberta, because now for the first time in years, she can drive again.
“Because I’m not in as much pain, I’m happier,” she said.