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photo A Disease Called Pain
By Vishnu Mathur
for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation

"I thought that I was going crazy. The period during which I should have healed had passed and my doctor thought I should be better, but I wasn't. In fact, I was getting worse. I began to doubt myself. It was the not knowing...Pain demands an explanation." Catherine, pain patient

For some people the pain never goes away, even long after their original trauma has healed. Why does chronic pain develop in some people and not in others? What are its triggers? And what can be done about it? A Disease Called Pain explores the deeply complex experience we call chronic pain through the personal stories of several individuals suffering from the disease.

Catherine's fibromyalgia developed after she was hit from behind while driving. In addition to chronic pain, she has experienced extreme fatigue and chemical sensitivities. She has been forced to fight the medical system to have her condition recognized and to gain access to appropriate treatment.

Nathan, 13-years-old, has experienced unrelenting neuropathic pain since birth, as a result of slipped vertebrae. An otherwise typical, active adolescent, he struggles to come to terms with the fact that his pain, though it can sometimes be managed, may never be cured.

David, injured in a fall, was left with severe pain on one side, but with very little sensation in his left leg. Though he was unable to work and could not even pick up his new baby without excruciating pain, physicians told him it was all in his head.

The video documentary also investigates the pain experience of children and newborns. While it has been thought that the infant nervous system was too undeveloped to feel pain, new research confirms what mothers know instinctively, that babies do experience pain, but that comfort and tenderness can help them through painful experiences.

Unlike acute pain, produced by a healthy nervous system, chronic pain is now viewed as a disease caused by abnormal changes in the brain and spinal cord. If not properly treated at an early stage, it may actually change the body's physical makeup. As the documentary reveals, chronic pain can destroy sleep and depress the immune system. Its effects can include not only physical symptoms, but an onslaught of emotions including sadness, panic, despair, helplessness, and feelings of hopelessness and isolation. Yet the clinical approaches and research seen in this insightful film show that it can be managed effectively, and offer hope that it may someday even be cured.

Among the cutting-edge physicians and researchers who comment on the cases in this comprehensive film are Angela Mailis-Gagnon, an expert on neuropathic injuries; Ronald Melzack, discussing the gate control theory of pain; Clifford Woolf, mapping the DNA of pain to discover how and why it changes; Patrick McGrath and Allen Findley, investigating how pain interferes with the brain's ability to process information; and Celeste Johnston, who studies pain responses in infants.

45 minutes
© 2003
Purchase $199 DVD
Order No. QA-377
close captioned

"Highly Recommended for secondary, academic and public library collections. It covers considerable ground in educating both a general and professional rehabilitation audience about pain origins and contemporary interventions." Educational Media Reviews

Related Films
Morphine on Trial: Despite evidence of its effectiveness, the use of opioids in managing chronic pain remains controversial. Medical and nursing specialists explore experiences in the U.S. and Canada.

Your Options for Pain Relief in Childbirth: An entertaining and informative look at the options available for pain management, including their pros and cons and the roles of the various health professionals involved.


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Study Guide

Web Resources

To rent or purchase this film, please visit the Icarus Films website