Sunday, September 03, 2006

Health: Chronic Pain

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Health: Chronic Pain
Aug 31, 2006 11:15 pm US/Eastern

Stephanie Stahl

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Imagine stubbing your toe or twisting an ankle and developing an unbearable, chronic condition. Medical Reporter Stephanie Stahl reports it is happening to nearly one million Americans, leaving some doctors baffled. One local doctor has an explanation.

11-year-old Rachel Heisler has learned to live with chronic pain, as even playing with her dog hurts. The trouble comes with vibration from just about anything.

“The microwave beeping, the phone ringing, so everyday noise would make it worse,” said her mom Marilyn.

Rachel suffers from complex regional pain syndrome or C.R.P.S. She was diagnosed after a minor foot injury during gymnastics that triggered agonizing, non-stop pain.

“I don't think there's any pain in medicine that's worse than this. You can't be touched,” said Dr. Robert Schwartzman.

Dr. Schwartzman, an expert in C.R.P.S. at Drexel University College of Medicine, said it's a chronic pain ailment brought on by even the slightest injury to nerves or nerve endings.

“It starts with severe pain out of proportion to what the injury is. So you twist your ankle, then all of a sudden it starts to swell more than it should,” he said.

Dr. Schwartzman said the pain can spread throughout the body and is virtually unbearable.

While there's no cure, he said pain medications and some treatments do show benefits, but early diagnosis is critical.

Vance Hudson knows the pain all too well. It took doctors years to diagnose him, and he said the pain has taken over his life.

“I'm no longer employed. I spent a year without any income at all. It impacts relationships. I'm just not the same person I was,” he said.

New research shows that some people may be genetically predisposed to C.R.P.S. and that would explain why some people get it while others do not.

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