Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane. -- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Living with chronic pain and not getting hooked on pain pills is hard. I know because I’ve battled neck pain for 14 years. There have been times when I wanted to ask my doctor to go ahead and prescribe pain pills (he’s offered them several times) or take him up on his offer to try nerve blocks and steroid injections. But knowing what I know about a sickcare system highly influenced by one of the most profitable industries in the world, Big Pharma, has me skeptical.
Big Pharma is a group of multinational billionaire pharmaceutical companies specializing in making pills and making money. They prioritize profits over health and do whatever it takes to keep dope money flowing into their coiffures, using doctors to push their drugs. In 2012, Big Pharma’s top eleven corporations netted an $85 billion profit. That’s more pills and money than I care to count, so to take doctors up on their offer for prescription painkillers, especially as long-term treatment for chronic conditions, would be like taking the first hit of crack from a street dealer; I would forever be chasing that feeling of relief. No thanks.
My battle with pain began in 2009 after an automobile accident. An emergency room MRI revealed that I had mild cervical stenosis. My primary care doctor referred me to a neurosurgeon who told me in no uncertain terms, on the first visit, that I needed surgery to repair bulging disks in my neck. He showed me the MRI results and it to be honest, it made me nervous. To make things worse, he added that if I didn’t get the surgery right away, one wrong move and I could end up paralyzed for life. But as scary as the results looked, I was not convinced that surgery was the best option, so I told him I would see a chiropractor before making a final decision. He replied, "Any chiropractor that tells you that they can fix your neck is a quack." I left his office, thinking, "You're the quack if you think I would let you cut on me, even if I decided to have the surgery.”
That doctor didn't know that I had done my homework before the visit and wasn’t surprised that he insisted on surgery. It’s what surgeons get paid to do, right? And neurosurgeons are the top-paid surgeons in this country. I knew Big Pharma’s influence in the number of surgeries performed in hospitals, and I was also aware of the financial relationship between them and medical providers, how their drug pushers hang around clinics to hand out samples to doctors who pass them on to their patients. Physicians are good at prescribing pills for our ills, as physician Robert H. Lustig points out in his eye-opening book, Metabolical. Big Pharma needs doctors to power the pill machines, and they do that by paying for medical school stuff, which puts them in a position to control what they teach. Lustig posits that it’s in a university’s best interest to maintain these self-serving industry relationships for two reasons: 1) direct drug money for research projects and salaries for research scientists, etc., and 2) potential drug money for in-house discoveries. An $85 billion profit in one year is a colossal profit orchestrated by a hand full of people.
In her book, Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company that Addicted America, award-winning author Beth Macy, writes about America's twenty-plus-year struggle with addiction to pain pills and the role of corporate greed plays in making addiction to painkillers the norm.
But I didn’t need Lustig or Macy to convince me to "just say no" to pain pills. I knew people addicted to opioids, and the sad reality is they were still in pain; they were no better off regarding their overall health. That was enough for me to keep searching for alternative treatments for my neck pain.
I alternated between chiropractic and physical therapy, and in June of 2022, I decided to try acupuncture therapy. I like it for the following reasons:
I've gone another year without surgery and no prescription pain pills.
He doesn't accept insurance, which means Big Pharma does not dictate or influence the treatment plan, and that adds up to wait times of 10 minutes or less, and staff has more time to spend with patients.
In the initial office visit, he took the time to talk to me about lifestyle affects health, leaving me with a feeling of connectedness.
He provides individualized care instead of a “one size fits all” approach
He has extensive knowledge of clinical nutrition and uses only plant-based herbs to treat pain
He focuses on healing and prevention and how his biggest challenge is treating patients after they’ve had surgery, after they realize that surgery is no quick fix. He believes, and I agree, that health and healing are up to the patient. He is only a non-invasive facilitator. There are no quick fixes.
He’s been an acupuncturist for over 20 years and comes from 3 generations of acupuncturists. I believe he knows his stuff.
Unless you’re raking in huge profits from the American sickcare system, you know that it’s time for a comprehensive overhaul, but let's be real, it isn't happening anytime soon. Although the United States spends more per capita on healthcare than any other country, its citizens are not receiving the care they need. The system focuses on treating disease rather than promoting preventative care and wellness. Big Pharma’s net profits from its pill mills clearly indicate that they have no loyalty to the ancient wisdom of Hippocrates: “Whatsoever house I may enter, my visit shall be for the convenience and advantage of the patient.” Nope, their loyalty is to the dollar bill!
So do you want to continue to leave your health in the hands of a system driven by greed? My small change "Wings of Gratitude" keeps pointing me in a different direction, to a place of health and healing! Come fly with me!