Documentary Champions Holistic Approach to Chronic Pain

By A. Rahman Ford, PNN Columnist

A new, eye-opening documentary is challenging conventional wisdom about chronic pain treatment. Rather than treat pain as a purely biomedical issue, On a Scale of 1 to 10: The Silent Epidemic suggests a holistic, multi-disciplinary approach to pain treatment that addresses the physical, social, psychological and spiritual dimensions of who we are as human beings.

According to the film’s website, the motivation to make the documentary was to show people “a different path to regain their quality of life” without the use of prescription opioids and surgery. The film features clinics and wellness centers that use new diagnostic tools, innovative research and advanced products and therapies. 

The film was produced by Citrus Pie Media Group and was written and directed by Laurent Goldstein and Executive Produced by Jennifer Unruh.

To set the inspirational tone for the film, Goldstein opens with his own personal story. As a result of a herniated disc, he had lower back pain so severe he could not walk, sit or stand without intense agony. He found his freedom from pain in chiropractic, spinal decompression treatments and a targeted anti-inflammatory regimen.

With this holistic approach, Goldstein was able to avoid surgery. His personal struggle and triumph over chronic pain, as well as the stories of other patients, motivated him to make the film.

Goldstein’s passion is particularly evident in the scenic snapshots of Canadian landscapes and seascapes that he strategically places throughout the film. They amplify and reinforce the film’s emphasis on natural modalities of healing.

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The nearly two hour long documentary is well made and chock full of information, but also thoughtfully introductory in its tone, making it understandable to those new to holistic and integrative methods of healing. The film provides enough detail about what these treatments are and how they work, but not so much that it overwhelms the viewer with medical minutia and jargon.

The messages and themes in the film are compelling. Although it does get technical in some areas, the documentary is far from clinical in its presentation. On the contrary, the emotional success stories told by everyday people who have conquered their chronic pain make the film personal and relatable.

They made the conscious decision to liberate themselves from mainstream medicine because they were fed up with misdiagnosis, mistreatment and crippling financial expense.

Experts and Influencers in Alternative Health

Goldstein interviews health and wellness influencers such as psychiatrist Daniel Amen, Dr. Michael Klaper, Dr. Neal Bernard, psychologist Beth Darnall and Barby Ingle of the International Pain Foundation (iPain). Through conversation with these experts, a wide range of alternative medical approaches are discussed. These include nutrition, physical exercise, immune system function, hormone balancing, digestion, and vitamin/mineral supplementation.

Other therapies include laser therapy, stem cell therapy, medicinal herbs, sound/vibration therapy, floating therapy, light therapy, hypnosis, meditation and energy healing. All of these approaches are aimed at healing the underlying condition, not just masking the symptoms.

For example, a key focus of the film is the nutrient-deficient American diet, which is seen as a primary culprit in causing chronic pain. Meat and dairy are especially bad for human health, with one expert recommending “meat abstinence.” One pain sufferer was able to get off of all medications with a diet of fruits, vegetables, berries, nuts and seeds, and has remained medication-free for ten years.

All in all, the documentary is a thought-provoking window into the multifaceted causes of chronic pain and the novel approaches that fed-up pain sufferers are turning to. The film takes an expansive view of what pain is and challenges viewers to summon the courage to abandon preconceived notions of health and wellness, and to open themselves up to new avenues of healing.

On a Scale of 1 to 10: The Silent Epidemic will open the International Pain Summit in Los Angeles on November 14. iPain has recognized the film with its 2019 Community Impact Award.

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A. Rahman Ford, PhD, is a lawyer and research professional. He is a graduate of Rutgers University and the Howard University School of Law, where he served as Editor-in-Chief of the Howard Law Journal.

Rahman lives with chronic inflammation in his digestive tract and is unable to eat solid food.

The information in this column is for informational purposes only and represent the author’s opinions alone. It does not inherently express or reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of Pain News Network.

Documentary Looks at Pain Relief as Human Right

By Steve Weakley

A new documentary calls pain relief a basic human right.  That is one of the tantalizing premises of “Hippocratic,” a film about the life of one of the pioneers of palliative care in India, Dr. M.R. Rajagopal.  

For over 20 years, Rajagopal has battled conditions that cause palliative care patients in India to suffer needlessly. Despite being home to most of the world’s legally grown opium, morphine and other opioid medications are often inaccessible in India to patients dying of cancer and other chronic illnesses.   

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Rajagopal points out that the Indian Narcotics Act of 1987 reduced prescriptions of opiates in his country by 94 percent in just 12 years.  Under that law, even a minor mistake in prescribing opioids could send a doctor to prison for 10 years. 

“When you torture someone for political reasons, they can sign a confession and escape.  Here, (pain patients) don’t even have that option… they can’t fight back.  It’s a very one-sided war,” says Rajagopal.

In “Hippocratic,” Rajagopal points out that medicine and the profit motive compound the lack of effective pain care.  About 80 percent of the healthcare industry in India is privatized, and when doctors prescribe opiates they often steer patients toward expensive name brand drugs, when nearly identical generics cost only pennies.  He warns against unchecked medical profits and makes a passionate plea for universal health care.

The 88-minute film is most moving in the moments where it demonstrates the power of compassion as the primary purpose of treatment.  A four-year old girl, writhing and screaming in unbearable pain, is seen reaching up and kissing Rajagopal on his forehead after he administers her medicine.

You can watch a trailer for “Hippocratic” below:

In 2014, Rajagopal won an award for extraordinary activism from Human Rights Watch, a non-profit that has done extensive work on human rights abuses and the suffering of palliative care patients worldwide.

As PNN has reported, Human Rights Watch is now investigating the treatment of chronic pain patients in the United States.

“People we interviewed who didn’t have access to appropriate medications for their pain were essentially giving testimony that was almost exactly the same as the testimony we were getting from the victims of police torture,” said Diederik Lohman, Director of Health and Human Rights for Human Rights Watch.  “People were facing tremendous suffering that actually could be relieved pretty easily through very inexpensive palliative care and pain management.”

“Hippocratic” had a limited release in U.S. theaters last month, but can still be seen in New York City, Seattle, Fresno and a handful of other cities. It can also be rented online by clicking here.