5 Ways Clinical Somatics Will Change the World
If you’ve gotten out of pain with Clinical Somatics, you know how life-changing the exercises are. To not endure pain on a daily basis frees you from stress and suffering—like loss of sleep, mood disorders, and physical degeneration related to the pain. You can also be more physically active and fully engaged in your life.
Getting out of pain can also mean reducing or eliminating use of pain medication, or avoiding a potential surgery. You may have even benefited financially by way of decreased healthcare costs and being able to return to work.
It’s incredible to experience these changes in your own life—so imagine if everyone who had preventable chronic pain could experience the same?
Large-scale surveys estimate that between 50 million and 100 million Americans suffer from chronic pain that negatively impacts their life. And while not all cases of chronic pain are caused by habitual body use, the majority are. For example, in the case of back pain—the most common type of chronic pain, experienced by up to 80% of Americans at some point in their lives—it’s estimated that 97% of cases are mechanical in nature. That means that the pain is a result of abnormal stresses placed on the spine, its supporting structure, or the muscles and connective tissues of the back. This huge percentage of back pain cases could be prevented and alleviated with Clinical Somatics.
The core of this issue is that the medical community does not know how to address the underlying cause of most chronic musculoskeletal pain. And sadly, two of the most common pain treatments—medication and surgery—are expensive, can lead to other health problems, and don’t actually address the cause of the pain.
So if you think that Clinical Somatics changing the world is an overstatement, think again. The global burden of pain is immense, and being able to prevent and relieve much of this pain naturally and economically will have a huge impact on healthcare costs, the opioid epidemic, the quality of our lives, and even our lifespans.
1. By reducing opioid prescription, abuse, and related deaths
In 2011, a whopping 238 million prescriptions for narcotic pain medications were filled in the United States. And while the prescription rate has been gradually declining since 2013, there were still 58 opioid prescriptions written for every 100 Americans in 2017.
Prescription opioids bind to specialized nerve endings in the same way that heroin, an illegal opioid, does. The resulting pain relief and sense of euphoria make these drugs not only highly effective, but also highly addictive. Just a week or so of regular opioid use can lead to dependency, in which the brain begins to depend on the drug for normal functioning. Repeated exposure to opioids leads to tolerance, a state in which the brain needs increasingly higher dosages to achieve the same effects. Too often, opioid use outlasts the pain condition, leading to lifelong addiction and even death.
The accessibility of prescription opioids, the speed at which they lead to dependency, and the desirable feelings they produce has led to a high rate of abuse. As of 2017, the number of people abusing prescription painkillers is more than double the number of people addicted to heroin and almost double the number of people addicted to cocaine.
Nearly three out of four of the people who are addicted to prescription opioids are using medication that was prescribed to someone else, and the majority of the drugs are obtained for free from family or friends. Having a doctor’s prescription for narcotic pain medication often gives people a false sense of security; they think it’s okay to give the drugs to a friend or leave them easily accessible in a medicine cabinet.
The number of emergency room visits due to overdose of prescription painkillers increased by nearly 30% in just one year between 2016 and 2017. Larger doses of painkillers, often sought by those whose addiction has increased their tolerance for the drug, can cause breathing to slow so much that respiration stops altogether, resulting in a fatal overdose. There are now more overdose deaths involving prescription opioids than there are deaths involving cocaine and heroin combined.
Narcotic pain medications are being over-prescribed, and many patients are not being screened and treated for addiction. Frighteningly, most doctors receive only a few hours of training in medical school on how to prescribe controlled drugs and identify addiction; some receive no training at all.
With all of the problems created by over-prescribing, you would hope that at least the people suffering from chronic pain were getting some relief. But it turns out that prescription pain medications manage pain effectively only about half the time—not a great success rate for a treatment that poses so many serious risks.
Imagine if Clinical Somatics was prescribed by doctors, and if even half of the people taking prescription opioids to manage their pain could reduce or eliminate their pain and use of medication with Clinical Somatics. There would be a substantial decrease in the rate of opioid prescription, which would have far-reaching effects on the opioid epidemic.
2. By reducing orthopedic surgeries
When drugs don’t work, many Americans turn to surgery to find some relief from their pain. Blue Cross Blue Shield reported that rates of elective orthopedic surgeries increased by 44% between 2010 and 2017. Many of these surgeries are being performed on younger patients; the National Center for Health Statistics found that between 2000 and 2010, the number of hip replacement surgeries in people ages 45–54 more than doubled.
The efficacy of joint replacements continues to improve, fueling a new mentality: Your body will inevitably break down, but that’s no problem—you can just get your joints replaced! This attitude makes people feel justified in pushing their bodies until they break instead of taking the time to pursue nonsurgical solutions to their pain. As a result, more elective surgeries are performed each year, driving health insurance costs higher.
Back pain is the type of pain most frequently experienced by Americans, so it’s no surprise that back surgery is the most common type of orthopedic surgery, being performed 1.2 million times each year in the United States. An analysis published in Spine in 2018 found that between 2004 and 2015, there was a 62% increase in the number of elective back surgeries performed in the United States. Unfortunately, unlike joint replacements, back surgeries are not nearly as consistent in their effectiveness.
One reason for the high rate of failure in back surgeries is that many people are misdiagnosed as good candidates for surgery. Often, back pain patients can avoid surgery if they and their doctor take the time to pursue physical rehabilitation. At an annual meeting of the American Academy of Pain Medicine, a panel of doctors led a session entitled “Failed Back Syndrome” in which they discussed the overuse of and lack of success from surgery in back pain patients. The doctors reported no difference in outcome between surgically and nonsurgically treated back pain patients, and they argued in favor of physical rehabilitation and more stringent preoperative evaluation.
Surgery also poses health risks, including persistent pain, reduced long-term mobility, repeat surgeries, infection, and abuse of prescription pain medication. When function is the issue—as is the case with most people who have chronic musculoskeletal pain—studies consistently indicate that physical rehabilitation is the better choice. It has a higher rate of success, is less expensive, and has far fewer risks than surgery.
Imagine if doctors educated their patients about Clinical Somatics, and even better, if it was covered by health insurance. The majority of elective orthopedic surgeries could be avoided altogether, decreasing health insurance costs as well as surgery-related health risks.
3. By reducing the financial drain of chronic pain
On top of being in pain on a daily basis, people with chronic pain often suffer financially. A nationwide survey found that 57% of Americans have chronic pain, and 20% of these people have taken disability leave from work—this means that around 37 million Americans have missed work due to pain.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that the top two causes of disability are associated with physical or mobility limitations (such as arthritis and back and spine problems), and these account for over 35% of all disability. Being in pain can lead to significant financial hardship—imagine not being able to work or provide for yourself or your family simply because you can’t find a solution for your pain.
The CDC estimates that the total cost of disability from all types of pain is $300 billion annually. And while we typically think about the effects of pain on a personal level, the cost to the U.S. government is immense. In 2008, federal and state programs (including Medicare, Medicaid, the Department of Veterans Affairs, TRICARE, workers’ compensation, and others) paid out $99 billion in medical expenditures attributable to pain.
A nationwide survey by Research!America found that 57% of Americans think pain research should be one of the medical community’s highest priorities, and that they would be willing to pay a dollar more per week in taxes to increase federal funding of pain research and treatment.
People know that the current options for pain relief aren’t working, and they want a real solution. Clinical Somatics is vastly more affordable than medication, surgery, or any therapy that requires long-term repeat visits. Best of all, Clinical Somatics actually works.
4. By allowing people to be more physically active
Many people tend to be increasingly less physically active as they age, due to their lifestyle, expectations, and how their body feels. Chronic pain is a common reason for people reducing or stopping exercise altogether, and on top of that, the body aches and stiffness that many people experience as they get older make them less likely to be physically active.
This decrease in physical activity leads to weight gain, loss of muscle mass and strength, loss of bone density, and an increased risk of falls and broken bones. Regular exercise also helps to prevent many chronic, life-threatening conditions including heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and neurodegeneration.
A 2015 study of over 300,000 people found that lack of exercise is responsible for twice as many early deaths as obesity. Another study found that normal-weight people who exercised moderately (150 minutes or more weekly) lived about 4.7 years longer than normal-weight people who did not do regular moderate exercise. The study found a direct dose-response relationship between amount of exercise and lifespan; the more that the participants exercised per week, the more years of life they gained.
The President’s Council on Sports, Fitness & Nutrition reports some frightening statistics: 80% of adults do not meet the guidelines for both aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities, and less than 5% of adults participate in 30 minutes of physical activity daily.
Chronic pain and general stiffness and achiness have a huge negative effect on our physical activity and fitness level, and thereby on our weight, development of chronic disease, and our lifespans. Imagine if everyone knew how to prevent and alleviate their pain, and keep their bodies feeling great as they age? A regular practice of Clinical Somatics exercises has a profound ripple effect on our physical fitness, overall health, and length of our lives.
5. By reducing depression, suffering, and neurodegeneration
If you’ve been in pain for an extended period of time, you understand the negative effect it has on your quality of life and mental state. Chronic pain has serious health implications, including an impaired ability to make decisions, increased risk of psychological disorders, and even structural changes to the brain.
People who suffer from pain for at least six months are more than four times more likely than nonsufferers to be diagnosed with depression. And as pain becomes more severe or complex, symptoms of depression worsen. People with two or more areas of pain are six times more likely to be depressed, and people with three or more areas of pain are eight times more likely to be depressed. Pain and depression share biological pathways and neurotransmitters in the brain, so they often coexist, exacerbate one another, and respond to similar treatment.
Up to 90% of pain sufferers are unable to get a good night’s sleep. This lack of sleep contributes to a state often referred to as the “terrible triad” of suffering, sleeplessness, and sadness. Inadequate rest alone is enough to make someone not in pain become irritable. For people with chronic pain, the combination of fatigue, irritability, depression, and unrelenting pain becomes a vicious downward cycle that can lead some to desperately resort to overuse of painkillers, unnecessary elective surgeries, and even suicide.
Compared to control subjects, chronic pain patients are shown to have between 5% and 11% less volume in the neocortex, the part of the brain responsible for higher functions such as rational thought, language, spatial reasoning, motor control, and sensory perception. This decrease is equivalent to the effect that 10–20 years of normal aging has on the brain. The stress that often accompanies chronic pain is a likely contributor to this neurodegeneration, as the stress hormone cortisol has been shown to cause brain cells to wither away and die. Lifestyle changes resulting from chronic pain, such as avoiding physical activity and mentally challenging tasks, may also contribute to the reduction in brain matter.
Chronic pain is invisible, and can be all too easily ignored by people who haven’t experienced it. But if you’ve had chronic pain, you understand the stress, helplessness, depression, and fatigue that accompany it. On top of reducing opioid abuse, elective surgeries, and healthcare and disability costs, and improving overall health and lengthening lifespans, Clinical Somatics reduces human suffering. If you know someone in pain, please tell them about Clinical Somatics—you never know the impact it could make on their life.
The Pain Relief Secret: How to Retrain Your Nervous System, Heal Your Body, and Overcome Chronic Pain by Sarah Warren, CSE
Somatics: Reawakening the Mind’s Control of Movement, Flexibility and Health by Thomas Hanna