Pain. Physical pain.
We all experience it, as evidenced by the huge selection and marketing of pain relief products. For the year 2013, in the United States alone, the sales value of over-the-counter (OTC) oral pain relievers–tablets and liquid–was over $1.3 billion. External pain relief products generated another $360 million. I have had trouble tracking down good numbers for physical therapy, pain management medical programs, prescription pain relief products, and self-help therapy with or without support from non medical personnel, although I am certain that the total cost of services dwarfs the OTC market. One LinkedIn source estimates that the U.S. pain management market in 2011 was almost $41 billion, but that the market value is declining and expected to drop to $29.5 billion by 2018.
The projected decline in pain management comes as a surprise to me. As new products with fewer side effects come to market, and with an aging population, it is difficult for me to imagine such a decline. To date, no one has figured out how to wipe out arthritis as one ages. With increased life spans and continually rising medical and pharmaceutical costs, declining costs seem less logical to me, especially since it costs pharmaceutical companies more each year to bring a product to market, especially with the increased expectations of the National Institutes of Health requiring greater and more careful clinical study of any new drug a company plans to release. Homeopathic and “natural” methods may, perhaps, take away some pharmaceutical profits, as more sufferers shun drugs for New Age and ancient Asian and Indian natural dietary products/programs and body strengthening programs such as yoga, tai chi, stretching, water aerobics, and other proactive exercise techniques. So far, nothing related to the pain management market is clear on how much these contribute to the value of pain management, either actively or prophylactically.
Over the past ten years or so, pain management has become a major issue for me. Although I kept myself physically fit until I was 40, as I entered into new life changes and circumstances, I allowed my body to weaken. Shortly after I reached the age of 50, I began to experience numbness and pain from spinal arthritic spurs that were pressing into my spinal cord, along with ruptured discs that exacerbated the problems. I have seen some of the best pain management physicians and physical therapists in the US, and have been prescribed pharmaceutical regimens that greatly–although not completely–brought my pain to controllable levels. But the pharmaceuticals have also contributed to other ailments, such as liver problems and bleeding ulcers. Exercise, diet, and various forms of natural remedies have helped reduce some of the pain. However, nothing is perfect, and the body continues to degenerate with age, thereby causing more pain. Until I was taken off of all effective pharmaceutical products when I lost much of my blood to bleeding ulcers last month, I had almost forgotten the extent of the pain level with which I live each day. The controlled pain was still bad enough to cause insomnia because I could not get comfortable, and limited my independence during the day. Pain has become my constant companion.
Thankfully, because I have been careful with dietary regulation for a good portion of my life, and because I do not suffer from diabetic neuropathy, I am not as badly off as many people in the US who suffer from chronic pain. My tolerance for pain is pretty high, and I continue to exercise through much of my pain. But life with pain has definitely changed aspects of my personality for the worse, and I no longer smile through more excruciating episodes. Yes, I have become Bitch of the Year. Pain contributes to crankiness big time. Moving to a warmer climate would have been a great idea if most of the pain I experience were muscular instead of neural. Limited medical services here have caused a great deal more crankiness in me than I would have imagined. Some of the less-than-professional attitudes of certain medical personnel here–and I’m thinking specifically the gastroenterologist who was taking care of me while I was in the hospital–contribute to my increasing crankiness. My frustration that my husband took a job on this island, forcing me to move away from trusted doctors and other medical personnel, as well as alternative medicine sources, has contributed to my crankiness, while some of the less-than-state-of-the-art medical knowledge and practices have contributed to speeding up my deterioration. Add these to the crankiness factor and the line between simple bitch and Super Bitch was quickly crossed.
The problem is that many Americans in the US are probably getting less care than I get here on a foreign island. Red States that are denying aging citizens access to the benefits of the Affordable Health Care Act and U.S. congressional representatives are attempting to curtail Medicare benefits will be leaving more and more Americans in a battle to fight pain on their own. This appears to me to be the primary reason why costs of pain management are expected to decrease rather drastically over the next several years. Aging Americans may be more fit and more health conscious than those of preceding generations; but even diet and exercise cannot prevent much of the deterioration that naturally affects an aging body.
Certainly, I have covered only a small part of what aging Americans do to stave off health problems that contribute to pain in later years of life. However, even allowing “wiggle room” for factoring in remedies and techniques not mentioned here leaves me feeling that pain management cost projections will not decrease as drastically as predicted.