Jennifer Grey's history with herniated discs, spine surgery prompt pain awareness campaign

Oct 3 2011
Actress Jennifer Grey, star of 1987's Dirty Dancing, is the new spokesperson for a chronic pain awareness campaign, spurred by her own history of herniated discs, neck pain and spine surgery.

Grey endured severe whiplash from a car accident in 1987, which eventually led to chronic neck pain. In order to relieve her condition, Grey sought help from a wide range of treatments, including massage, anti-inflammatories and hypnosis.

When she was offered a spot in the 11th season of the television show "Dancing With the Stars," Grey consulted her doctors, who informed her that she needed three surgeries: the first two to treat thyroid cancer, and the third a discectomy to remove a herniated disc. She went on to win the competition.

Now, Grey is helping to launch Partners Against Pain's "Hands On Approach for Pain Management," a campaign to help chronic pain patients communicate effectively with their doctors. Pain is a highly individualized experience, and patients may struggle with how to describe their pain or assess whether a treatment is working because of the limited amount of time allotted for a doctor's appointment, according to the campaign.

"I want people to know that communicating about pain is an important step to identifying the best treatment options for you," Grey said in a statement.

In an informational video for the campaign, Grey emphasized that preparing for a doctor's appointment is key to communication about chronic pain. She suggested that patients remember "the three R's:" research chronic pain to prepare a list of questions, record daily pain symptoms and attempted treatments in a journal, and rehearse the doctor's appointment with a loved one in order to figure out the best way to describe the patient's condition. It is important to bring both the questions list and journal to the appointment.

Once a doctor gives a patient a treatment plan, the patient should repeat all instructions back to the doctor to make sure they were heard correctly. It is a good idea to ask the office staff for educational handouts and contact information for ongoing communication and follow-up.

Patients should remember it may take time to find the most effective treatment plan, which may include medication, physical therapy, exercise, hypnotherapy or acupuncture, Grey said.