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A Hot Source of Relief For Pain Sufferers

--For many people with chronic pain, relief can't come a minute too soon. On the June 4 CBS Evening News, John Blackstone reports on some new ways researchers are helping give sufferers a break.

Ready to try anything, Aurelia Beacum is now trying yoga. It's hard for others, she says, to appreciate her desperation.

"It works on your nerves, it makes you irritable, it makes you question, 'How am I gonna live?'" Beacum says of her pain.

An estimated 80 percent of pain sufferers don't get the relief they could. Doctors don't often ask the right questions, and sometimes, don't even listen to the answers.

"Your friends and neighbors and loved ones and spouses can't see your pain. They can't relate to it. And they almost always think it's a crock," says Dr. Allan Basbaum.

Researchers are now making extraordinary breakthroughs on treating pain, going after it at the level of individual molecules to see how they change when someone hurts.

"It's really going to make a dramatic impact on a huge, huge medical problem in this country," Basbaum says.

One unusual approach doctors are taking could be described as fighting fire with fire, by taking the same chemical that makes chili peppers hot to fight one form of chronic pain.

At her San Francisco pain clinic, Dr. Wendye Robbins is using the chili derivative to treat patients like Carol Baker, who has a rare and debilitating form of foot pain, which she describes as a red hot, burning pain accompanied by severe swelling.

"The one thing that helped was putting my feet in ice water," Baker says. But after her first one treatment with the chili pepper ointment, Baker saw a huge improvement. She could go all day without ice.

"In the evenings, I really do need ice, but after the second treatment, I may not need that," Baker says before the second treatment, crossing her fingers.

Millions of Americans may also have their fingers crossed that researchers will soon find the answer to their pain as well.

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