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First Annual Chronic Pain Symposium

Pain Connection's First Annual Chronic Pain Symposium "Making the Invisible Visible" held at the Classic Residence by Hyatt in Chevy Chase, Maryland on October 9, 2002, was a success! The message was loud and clear that chronic pain is a complex syndrome that needs a holistic approach towards treatment and promotion of healing.

A videotape of group members and their spouses was shown to give an overview of the different types of chronic pain and the long term effects. It provided insight into how people cope, how their lives have changed and their desire to normalize their present conditions. A special thank you goes to Geoff Manifold for editing and producing the tape.

Thrive not Survive

Our first speaker, Cathy 'Cat' McClannan, gave an inspirational and uplifting talk on how she has learned to cope, since age 4, with her chronic pain due to scoliosis. In order for Cat not to be 'consumed by pain' she learned to change her responses to pain by redefining what is normal for her now and responding to it differently. She described pain as, "the experience of my body talking to me." Ms. McClannan spoke about how the experiences of anger, victimization, guilt, and acceptance, that she has undergone have in fact empowered her. She stressed that she lives to, "thrive not survive!" When she experiences pain. Cat will ask herself, "What is the gift in this today?" Meaning, what is the pain teaching me about myself and how can I share the gift not the pain?" Ms. McClannan's talk takes chronic pain sufferers to a higher stage of healing by coming to terms with their condition, taking responsibility and creating a new framework for living.

Pain Management - "An Art Form"

Our second speaker, Dr. Justin Wasserman, shared his vast wealth of knowledge and expertise. He spoke about the differences between acute pain, which is a new pain the person is experiencing, and chronic pain, which continues on long after the expected time of healing. Dr. Wasserman talked about the complexities of pain and the recent research studies that he heard at the World Pain Congress in San Diego, California. Research is showing that after an initial trauma secondary injury can occur in the nerves of the spinal chord which creates new pain in another part of the body. Central Sensitization develops in the dorsal horn of the brain and the brain becomes "super sensitized" to feeling pain. This explains one of the reasons why doctors are hesitant in treating pain patients when they are told of pain unrelated to the original source of pain. The pain cannot be seen on an MRI and patients are often told they are malingerers and sent to see psychiatrists. Dr. Wasserman emphasized the importance of obtaining a detailed history with a patient and tailoring it to an individualized treatment plan. He also looks at the attitude of the patient, sleep disorders connected to chronic pain and the physical condition, in order to determine which medications to prescribe. "It is an art form,"said Dr. Wasserman. He stated that a doctor has to believe the patient which is a validation of the patient's complaint. However, drugs do not always prevent the pain and Dr. Wasserman then refers his patients for cognitive treatment therapy, breathing exercises, relaxation exercises and physical therapy.


Fall/Winter 2002

The Six Stages of Chronic Pain

Our third speaker Gwenn Herman, spoke about the different stages that chronic pain sufferers go through and the psychosocial effects. This was based on her own personal experiences with chronic pain and from working with chronic pain sufferers for the last seven years. The initial trauma creates a crisis and medical and/or alternative modes of treatment are sought. Recovery and normal healing from the physical trauma soon begins to lapse into months and the sufferer is not recovering as predicted by medical providers.

The chronic stage has then been set into motion, and the sufferer then needs to begin to come to terms with how pain has changed his/her life. The final stage is healing when the person accepts and normalizes his/her condition and develops a treatment plan. The support group is a very important part of this healing process because physical and emotional pain are discussed. Coping mechanisms are taught how to use inner strengths to progress to a higher level in coping with pain. This is the most difficult and can be the most rewarding step of all. Ms. Herman also discussed pain characteristics from a survey of 90 Pain Connection members. Some of those statistics discussed were: 100% reported pain changed their personality and affected family and social relationships, 83% reported being depressed when they thought how they used to be, 80% reported it was hard to focus on tasks and 77% planned their day according to level of their pain.

The symposium was videotaped and we are in the process of editing the tape for sale to the public.

Cat McClannan, is a Bio-Energy Consultant, she can be reached at 4811 St. Elmo Avenue, Bethesda, MD 20814 and contacted at: 202-986-7282.

Dr. Wasserman is a Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Physician and is the Associate Medical Director at Pain & Rehabilitation Medicine at 7830 Old Georgetown Road, Suite C-15, Bethesda, MD 20814 and can be contacted at: 301-656-0220.

Gwenn Herman is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and the Founder and Director of Pain Connection and can be reached at 301-231-0008.

In this Issue . . .

Nonprofit Village
12320 Parklawn Drive
Rockville, MD 20852

For Information call:
Check our Website: painconnection.org

Executive Director
Gwenn Herman, LCSW-C,DCSW

Board of Directors
Gwenn Herman, LCSW-C,DCSW, President
Joan Weiss, Attorney, Vice-President
Sharon L. Waxman, Secretary
Tamar Solnik, MSW,CPA,Treasurer

© 2002 Pain Connection-Chronic Pain Outreach Center, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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