Describing pain is a notoriously tricky task. Plenty of work has been done over the years to try to measure what people feel. There are numbers to choose from, there are faces that start smiley and show increasing amounts of distress. There was a man who let himself get stung over and over and over again, trying to come up with a truly objective pain scale. Still, in spite of all this work, there’s no tool that lets a doctor really, truly know what her patient is experiencing. It’s still possible, therefore, for a doctor to listen to a person talk about suffering and choose not to believe her. The Violent Femmes lamented this conundrum, asking “how can I explain personal pain?/How can I explain, my voice is in vain?” Surely this is a refrain that many a patient can relate to.
A recent article in the New Yorker gives hope that this problem may finally have a solution. Researchers are using something called a 7-Tesla MRI to scan the brain as they induce varying levels of pain in their subjects. They have been able to see that different people respond differently to the stimuli. They’ve learned, strangely, that redheads react to pain sensations in reliably odd ways. More significantly, they’ve been investigating the brains of chronic pain patients and have shown that, in some people, “the mechanism that exacerbates pain is dominant”. At long last this is a way of looking objectively at people’s pain. With this machine a person’s suffering is visible, even if all other scans show that there’s nothing wrong and there should be no symptoms. This technology could lead to the end of bias, not to mention just plain confusion, in the treatment of pain.
Unfortunately, widespread implementation is a way off. The New Yorker piece was written from a laboratory in a university. There are only a few hundred 7-Tesla MRI machines in existence and they are, of course, ridiculously expensive. For the foreseeable future, people are still going to have to keep trying to explain their pain. Here at Pain Free Clinic we would like to offer one small comfort in the confusion of pain reporting and treatment: We believe you. As David Foster Wallace wrote in Infinite Jest, “You are welcome regardless of severity. Severity is in the eye of the sufferer…Pain is pain.”
A recent article in SFGate gives a good, solid reminder. It seems that, according to current âfair marketâ rates, someone earning minimum wage in San Francisco would have to work 171 hours per week to be able to rent a 2-bedroom apartment. The article points out that there are only 168 hours in a week. Alternatively, that person could find a $60 an hour job, because thatâs what it would take get down to a 40-hour work week. The east bay is better, but not by much. In the east bay a worker would only need to earn $44.79 per hour to get her 2-bedroom.
Yet here we all are, making it somehow. Some of us are getting our $44.79. Some of us make much more. Others of us are earning minimum wage and working it out. We are neighbors, friends, coworkers. We jog by one another at Lake Merritt, feel for soft avocados together at Berkeley Bowl, crawl along with one another on the I-80. Only some of us, however, have the extra cash to treat the aches and pains that come with living in a high pressure, fast paced, over-crowded city. The motivating idea behind Pain Free Clinic is that no one wants their neighbor to live in pain. Our organization is structured to allow the people in our community to care for one another. If you would like, and are able, to be a part of the structural level of this venture, please contact us. We are accepting love, encouragement, and donations. If you are looking for treatment, keep checking back here. Our doors will open soon!
As we move ever closer to Pain Free Clinic being an actual, physical clinic that you can walk into and get care, we continue to boost the ranks of our team. Our board is now up to six members, each committed to strengthening our community by alleviating its pain.
Lori Guidos and Nikola Zunic are the originals. They are the executive director and board president respectively and they have been with Pain Free Clinic since it was just a mess of legal paperwork and a vision.
A more recent addition is Beth Gram, board treasurer. Beth brings decades of non-profit financial wizardry, plus a seemingly endless assortment of technological knowhow, and is working hard to get everything we’ll need in place to open our doors this summer, even as she’s completing her MSTCM and raising two kids.
Jennifer Bezjak is now our board vice president, Emily Leap is a board member, and the two of them will be our first practitioners. Both are currently working on doctoral degrees in Chinese medicine and so enter their work with Pain Free Clinic steeped in inquiry and research. Most importantly, though, they come in ready to help alleviate the pain in our community.
Most recently, we’ve welcomed Jonathan Brown onto the board. Jonathan is a lifelong East Bay resident with a history of civic engagement. His dedication to the community he grew up in led him to study Chinese medicine and has led him to the work he will help us to do.
This list isn’t finished growing, so check back here to see what we continue to build. And look out, because pretty soon we’re going to having a grand opening announcement, and that you will not want to miss!