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Chronic pain: Invisible, potentially disabling condition

It can't be seen or felt or measured by observers, tests or X-rays, and sometimes doctors can't even identify its cause. Yet chronic pain can lay waste to a person's life, straining relationships with family and friends, and leaving a person unable to work and earn an income.

In cases in which chronic pain prevents a person from working, they can apply for Social Security Disability benefits that can help pay essential expenses and provide needed medical care. The SSDI application process can begin at the Newark office or online.

A new Discovery Channel documentary takes a look at what it can be like for the millions who struggle daily with the condition.

"Pain Matters" looks at six people dealing with chronic pain, including a woman still hurting two decades after a car accident, and an Iraq war veteran who suffered injuries while serving in the Navy.

The documentary also takes a look at the medical professionals who try to help those suffering from chronic pain.

The founder and director of the American Chronic Pain Association told a newspaper that her journey with pain began four decades ago after the birth of her second child.

She said the pain got worse over a period of six years, until she finally found doctors at the Cleveland Clinic who diagnosed her with fibromyalgia and began to help her learn how to live with the relentless discomfort.

She said she began her organization "motivated by fear" that the gains she had made were temporary and that she would need positive reinforcement to deal with what was to come.

She said her group helps people to know "they can take an active role in their recovery."

She said chronic pain is different from other potentially disabling conditions for several reasons, including its invisibility. "What does a backache look like?" she asked.

Plus, sufferers often have good days and bad days, and because of those fluctuations, caregivers and sufferers can be confused by the condition.

She noted, too, that in many cases (about one out of five), caregivers "doubt their loved ones' pain."

Obviously, the loss of a job and career adds financial problems, stress and more to the life of a chronic pain sufferer.

Source: Chicago Tribune, "Learning to live with chronic pain," by Bonnie Miller Rubin, Nov. 20, 2013

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