USA TODAY – Every morning, even before opening her eyes, Pamela Bobb begins to scan her body. She pays attention to how each foot feels, then each leg, working her way up.
By the time she gets to her neck and shoulders, where people hold most of their tension, she’s breathing deeply and relaxing.
She knows the shooting pain will strike as soon as her feet reach the floor, but this 20 minutes of meditative thinking and breathing means less misery to start her day.
Bobb, 59, who lives west of Knoxville, Tennessee, has never known life without pain. Born with a malformed pelvis, she had surgery within a day of delivery, and 18 more pelvic operations before she turned 40, until finally, there was nothing more surgeons could do.
Every day since – “every single minute of every day since” – Bobb has felt as if there’s a rubber band stretched tightly between her belly button and her back.
Many Americans know all too well the reality of such endless suffering.
At least 1 in 5 live with chronic pain. Some experts put the figure at 100 million. And nearly 1 in 10 are disabled by it.
On any given day, almost half of working-age men who are not in the labor force take pain medication, and people with chronic pain miss nine more days of work a year than those without it.
Pain is also expensive. Pain treatment cost $261 billion to $300 billion in 2010, and the cost has only grown. Add the value of days of work missed, hours of work lost and lower wages, and the total price of pain exceeds the cost of managing heart disease and cancer combined.
To better understand America’s pain problem, USA TODAY spoke with more than 50 pain experts – anesthesiologists, neurologists, psychologists, geneticists and people living with chronic pain … READ MORE.