Oct 2018
Issue No. 96
In this issue


About Us  
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  A not-for-profit ministry of
Church of the Brethren Benefit Trust Inc.

Church of the Brethren Insurance Services provides the following products: dental, vision, basic life and accidental death & dismemberment, supplemental life and AD&D, dependent life and AD&D, long-term disability, short-term disability, voluntary accident insurance, and Medicare supplement for eligible Church of the Brethren employees .
Dental, vision, and Medicare supplement coverage may also be available for eligible retired Church of the Brethren employees.
For eligibility information, call Connie Sandman at 800-746-1505, ext. 3366, or contact your human resources representative.
Medical and ancillary plans (named above) may be available to Brethren-affiliated employer groups.
Long-Term Care Insurance is available for all members of the Church of the Brethren, their family and friends, and employees of Church of the Brethren-affiliated agencies, organizations, colleges, and retirement communities. 

Contact Us 
1505 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120

Pain is a very complex human experience. This observation did not come from a psychologist but from a professional wrestler. To learn why, you must read the main article in this month's issue. What does it mean to say that pain is in the brain? What are the different kinds of pain? How is the pain from a cut on your arm different from sciatic pain? And the most important question - what can you do to cope with pain?
These are the questions we address in this issue's special focus on pain. We hope you will gain some insights and some help in handling this universal human reality.
We want to remind you that Open Enrollment begins in just a month and runs for the whole month of November. You will find a short article that will remind you of what Open Enrollment is and how you can use it.
As always you will find something to tickle your funny bone in LOL. 
So, here we are - already at the beginning of October. It seems only yesterday that we were enjoying the warmth of summer and coping with its humidity. Now the days are growing shorter and cooler, and in a few weeks, if you are in the temperate climes, the leaves will be turning, the children are back in school and soon, when you step outside you'll be filling your lungs with brisk fall air.
May the autumn of 2018 bring good things to you and your family and friends.
Open enrollment begins November 1

Open Enrollment is the period of time each year when you can make changes related to insurance coverage. Maybe you have supplemental life insurance and you want to change the amount. Or maybe you've decided it's time to add dental and vision. Every group plan offers this window for making changes and adding coverage.  For Brethren Insurance Services, open enrollment is from Nov. 1 to Nov. 30.  As we begin October, it is a good time to think about what changes or additions you might need to make next month.
Maybe you want to increase your life insurance amount. If you recently purchased a new house or car, think about disability insurance -- it helps cover your income should something happen to cause you to miss work.  If you are a client of Brethren Insurance Services, you can take advantage of the many ancillary insurance products offered, including insurance for accidents or for your pet. There's also long-term care, life, dental, vision, disability, and Medicare Supplement insurances.
If you are in another group plan, check with your HR representative about what is offered.
Don't put off your decisions about insurance coverage. Open Enrollment is only a month away.

If pain is inevitable, is suffering really optional?

"Pain is the most complex human experience." These are the words of a professional wrestler and circus strongman who was also a doctor - a man who changed the way we understand pain. While going to med school and starting his career, John J. Bonica had a secret life in the ring. As a fighter he inflicted pain; as a doctor he treated it. He considered his years as a wrestler to be among the most important of his life. They shaped his medical work and his deep interest in the subject of pain.
Bonica's training had taught him that pain is a warning signal, an alarm bell, but working in an army hospital during World War II, he noticed cases where a patient whose leg had been amputated still felt pain in the non-existent limb. Why would the alarm bell keep ringing? There were other cases where there was no injury, but still the patient hurt. Bonica started bringing specialists together to discuss patients' pain. No one had ever focused on pain this way. He read every medical text he could get his hands on, and out of 14,000 pages he found only 17½ pages devoted to pain. So, he began talking and writing about it. He would later author what was called the "Bible of Pain." He proposed new strategies, new treatments using nerve-blocking injections, and "pain clinics" based on those early meetings of specialists. At every turn, Bonica was asking doctors to take pain seriously.
Pain is a universal experience and takes many different forms. There is the ordinary, common-sense kind of pain that results from an injury or illness. All through the body - beneath the skin and in the organs - there are receptor nerve cells that send messages along nerve pathways to the spinal cord, where nerve cells filter and prioritize messages from those peripheral nerves, acting as gates, controlling which messages get through to the brain and at what speed and strength - anything from the mild irritation of a scratch, to the sharp pain caused by touching a hot stove, to the excruciating agony of kidney stones. Pain from a burn is processed as an urgent warning, while the irritation from a scratch is relayed more slowly and with less intensity. From the spinal cord the pain messages travel to the brain. The brain then does the obvious and tells you to remove your hand from the hot surface, but it also sends messages to promote healing.

Pain can be steady. It can be throbbing. It can be stabbing, aching, pinching, numbing, tingling, or dull. It can range in intensity from a minor nuisance to all-consuming and debilitating. The interaction between your nerves, the spinal cord, and the brain is as complex as a traffic system with on-ramps, different speeds, traffic lights, changing weather and road conditions, and a traffic control center.
Pain that is immediate and short-term is usually called "acute." But if the pain lasts longer than a few weeks it becomes "chronic," and some physicians think of it no longer as a warning signal but as a disease in itself.
Pain from the surface of the body feels somewhat different from pain in an inner organ, but both are caused by a local, discernable reality and can be treated by painkillers, by medicines to promote healing, and/or by surgery. This pain is generally called nociceptive pain.
But there is another kind of pain where the nerves themselves are damaged. This is generally called neuropathic pain. The damaged nerve cells misfire and send pain signals spontaneously rather than in response to an injury. A simple, not very serious example of this is the tingling feeling you get when you hit your funny bone. A severe example is when the sciatic nerve is compressed and inflamed. Any instance where neurons are damaged falls into this category.
Some authorities argue there is a third category that does not fit either of these two. Fibromyalgia is often considered an example, which seems to be a dysfunction of the nervous system, causing pain throughout the bones and muscles. Another example is nonspecific chronic lower back pain, where pain persists over time even though there seems to be no discernable cause. Further, adding to the complex reality of pain is the mystery of the phantom limb, where people report feeling excruciating pain in a hand, arm, or leg that is no longer there.
This brings us to the question - where is the pain? Everyone agrees that in some way it is in the brain, but what is meant is that the tissue or organ at the site of the injury or illness sends signals to the brain, and it is there that the pain is "created." The conditions at the site of the pain are real, but it isn't pain until the brain says so.
One implication of this is that the brain can be tricked or can be wrong. It can tell you that you are in pain when there is no injury or illness at the location. Or pain can be displaced, and you can hurt somewhere other than at the site of the injury. How this happens is a mystery, though researchers have developed some creative ways of "reprogramming" the brain in order to give relief to the sufferer.
How you experience the real pain happening in your brain and how you handle it is affected by many factors - genetics, gender, physical and emotional health, your social surroundings, your past experiences of pain, and how you have seen the people around you deal with pain.
When John J. Bonica drew on his dual identities to help change modern medicine, he gave us new ways to think about pain. Time Magazine called him "pain relief's founding father." Though there is still so much we don't know about pain, this wrestler/doctor did much to start us on our way to understand this most complex of human experiences.

Pain management - coping with pain

Whether it is acute pain that eventually passes, or chronic pain that dogs us for weeks, months, or even years, all of us at one time or another have been in pain and wanted it to stop. We live in a time when there are increasingly sophisticated pain-relieving drugs. But what do we do when the drugs don't help, or when they have unpleasant side effects?

Here are some things we can do without medication -- actions that rely on the fact that pain is "in the brain" and the fact that the brain is susceptible to suggestion. None of these are sure-fire, but consider them and think about what you might do to help yourself the next time you have to deal with pain.

1. Focus on the sensations of the pain. Is it burning? Throbbing? Tingling? Hot? Cold? Does it come in waves? This will help you see that the pain is not a "solid block" but a changing series of sensations.


2. If movement increases your pain, don't try to push through it. Pay attention and pace yourself. If the pain intensifies, ease off. Know your limits.


3. Pay attention to your beliefs about your pain, such as, "This is never going to get better," or "My pain makes me a bad parent," or "I should be able to muscle through this." Re-calibrate your thoughts, "I can have an impact on my pain," or "I'm doing pretty well considering what I'm up against," or "I can find ways to outsmart my pain."


4. If you hurt all over your body, find at least one small part that is pain-free. Focus your attention on that part, even if it's just a toe. Relax into the pain-free sensation of that place and feel it, even if for just a few moments. Finding one place on your body free of pain may give you a bit of relief.


5. Look for something pleasant in the present moment -- the sun shining, the smell of food cooking, the soft caress of the breeze, the sound of music. Your pain thus becomes one of many sensory experiences. Your brain is reminded that you are more than your pain.


6. Think about a place where you can be happy and pain-free. Picture it in all its detail. Go there in your imagination, relax your muscles, and rest in that place.


7. Reduce stress in your life by rearranging your schedule, taking time off, resolving conflict quickly. Listen to soothing music. Use relaxation music and guided imagery.


8. Be active, even if it's hard. Though it might seem to exacerbate the pain, gentle exercise over time will strengthen your muscles, keep your weight down, reduce the chance of heart disease, and keep blood sugar under control. Use the natural endorphins released by exercise to lift your mood.


9. Avoid or cut back on alcohol consumption. Pain makes sleeping more difficult and so does alcohol consumption. Less or no alcohol can improve your quality of life.


10. Join a support group either in your community or online. Remember you are not alone. Hearing from others who suffer what you suffer is greatly reassuring. 


11. Don't smoke. Smoking can affect circulation and worsen pain.



12. Track your pain level and activities each day. This will help your doctor know how you are doing, and will give you a sense that you are not just at the mercy of the pain.


13. With your doctor's approval, get regular massages. They will reduce stress and release tension. 


14. A healthy diet aids digestion, reduces disease, keeps weight under control, improves blood sugar levels, makes you feel better, and helps you cope with your pain.



Aches and pains

At a retirement home in Florida, a group of seniors were sitting around talking about their aches and pains.

"My arms are so weak I can hardly lift this cup of coffee," said one.

"I know what you mean. My cataracts are so bad I can't even see my coffee," replied another.

"I can't turn my head because of the arthritis in my neck," said a third.

"My blood pressure pills make me dizzy," another contributed.

"I guess that's the price we pay for getting old," winced an old man.

Then there was a short moment of silence until one woman spoke up cheerfully,  "Thank God we can all still drive."

Simple Fixes

Patient:  Doctor, I feel pain in various places.
Doctor:  Then don't go to those places.

Patient:  Doctor, I get a sharp pain in my eye when I drink tea.
Doctor:  Try taking the spoon out.

For Your Long-Term Care Needs
Brethren Insurance Services offers Long-Term Care Insurance all through the year
If you're interested in purchasing coverage, you should know that e ligibility for benefits is determined by the inability to meet at least two of these six activities of daily living -- bathing, eating, dressing, toileting, continence, or transferring. Cognitive impairment can also trigger benefits.
It's difficult to think about the fact that a debilitating condition or a disabling injury might leave you unable to care for yourself, or that when you reach your twilight years, the time will come when you will need some extra care. Long-term care insurance makes sure that you will get the care you need. It helps assure that the cost of your custodial care will not eat up your savings. Finally, and this is one of the best things about LTCI, it can help protect your children and other relatives from having to use their resources to care for you.
Brethren Insurance Services offers Long-Term Care Insurance for all members and employees of the Church of the Brethren and their family and friends; and also for employees of Church of the Brethren-affiliated agencies, organizations, colleges, and retirement communities and their families and friends.
If you are interested in obtaining this coverage, contact Brethren Insurance Services at  insurance@cobbt.org or 800-746-1505 for a free, no-obligation proposal.