When I sat down with Jennifer Grey in New York City to talk with her about being the spokesperson for Partners Against Pain, I didn’t ask about Dirty Dancing. It wasn’t on the agenda. Yet it came up because the year the movie was released (1987) coincided with the car accident that left Grey with whiplash damage and chronic pain.
Grey walked me through her post-injury story. She increasingly noticed that her neck had become “the weak link” in her physical health. Discomfort became even more prevalent after Grey gave birth ten years ago. As she began to have “really bad headaches,” she found herself pushing activities she enjoyed “off the table.” The pain made her feel vulnerable. However, as Grey explained, “I don’t like to complain.”
Repeatedly invited to be on Dancing With the Stars, Grey balked, She finally decided to use appearing on the show as “her carrot of motivation.” She connected with a doctor who pinpointed her problem. Her spinal cord was compressed and she needed fusion immediately. During the course of treatment, it was determined that she had a cancerous lump in her thyroid, which was then removed. Her footwork won her the top prize in the eleventh season of Dancing with The Stars.
When Purdue Pharma approached Grey to be the face of their national educational program to inform patients, caregivers, and physicians how to effectively communicate about pain management, Grey enthusiastically jumped onboard. Her motivation stemmed from her learning experience of shifting gears from “the pain is managing me” to “I’m managing the pain.” As Grey underscored, “I got my life back.” .
Stats from the Institute of Medicine show that over 110 million adults in the United States “suffer from chronic pain.” Untreated pain can result in issues ranging from reduced mobility and function to a weakened immune system—as well as depression or anxiety.