Camp Pain: Talking with Chronic Pain Patients

Camp Pain: Talking with Chronic Pain Patients

Camp Pain: Talking with Chronic Pain Patients

Camp Pain: Talking with Chronic Pain Patients


Based on fieldwork in a pain treatment center, "Camp Pain" focuses on patients' perspectives--on their experiences of pain and what these experiences mean to them.


“All of us here are rather desperate people”

—a Commonwealth Pain Center (CPC) patient

Teresa, a sculptor and body building instructor, had begun having severe back pain after a motorcycle accident fourteen years previously. Hospitalized several times with a herniated disk that nonetheless worsened, she ultimately found herself with degenerative disk disease, bone spurs, arachnoiditis (nerve damage), and arthritis. Wanting to avoid surgery, she went to a pain center and back school. She also tried acupuncture, spiritual healers, massage therapists, crystal healers, mushrooms (which were purported to stimulate growth), hypnosis, and transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (in which an apparatus sends an electrical signal to disrupt a pain signal). When she found the prescription medicines she was taking for pain and inflammation were upsetting her natural harmony and not allowing her to focus, she weaned herself off the drugs. She felt that her body was “refusing the drugs—they were making me shake and vomit, they weren’t working on pain at all.”

When she became pregnant disks at two levels of the spine ruptured. Since the pregnancy ruled out any radiology tests, she was put on total bed rest and traction for six months. Three brutal days of labor produced an oversized baby that needed open heart surgery. Following the birth, Teresa had spine surgery.

She was subsequently admitted to cpc because a laminectomy had re-ruptured a month after surgery, making her, as she put it, “psychotic with pain.” Her account of this experience included complaints about the bad things that can happen “when medicine and law cross each other,” about “sloppy medicine,” and about physicians who refused to help her.

Teresa also struggled over the issue of self-acceptance. “I have been . . .

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