If you suffer from acute chronic pain, you understand the burden that nearly 100 million other people in the United States carry. This staggering number comes from individuals who live with debilitating conditions such as fibromyalgia, cancer, past injuries, and a number of other illnesses, costing the U.S. somewhere between $560 and $635 billion each year. This estimate includes costs incurred from family practitioner visits for pain management treatment, surgical treatments, medications, and loss of work, but the financial cost is of little importance to those who have to cope with the constant pain.
Living with chronic pain not only affects an individual’s ability to find comfort in their own bodies. It also affects their ability to work, maintain healthy relationships, and have good mental health. In addition, the stigma of living with pain makes some hesitant to seek help from a pain management specialist.
What Is Chronic Pain?
Chronic pain is a constant signal from the nervous system that can last anywhere from a week to several years. In addition, it can feel different to different people. For some, it may feel like a quick sharp stab while for others a dull but constant throb. It can be the result of an injury, arthritis, cancer, infection, or a migraine, but in some cases, there may be no apparent cause of the pain at all.
Chronic Pain Versus Acute Pain
The first step to taking action to relieve you of your pain should be to work with a pain management doctor to determine whether or not the pain is acute or chronic. While many don’t realize this, clear differences exist between the two. Acute pain usually occurs from a specific cause such as an illness, surgery, or injury. It also lasts temporarily, usually no longer than the time it takes for the inflicted area to heal. Chronic pain, on the other hand, offers less predictability. People who suffer from chronic pain continue to suffer long after the trigger that started it, sometimes for years after, and in some cases, there is no apparent reason for the pain at all.
Pain Myths and Facts
As stated earlier, living with chronic pain has its own stigmas that cause many much embarrassments. In fact, often a person living with chronic pain will hide it so well that those around them don’t even know that they suffer. This stigma generally comes from the myths that surround pain. Fortunately, while some mysteries about what we know about chronic pain surround it, chronic pain specialists have made great strides towards understanding it including why it exists and how to treat it. By removing the mystery, patients can remove their embarrassment and seek pain management treatment so that they can once again enjoy living a healthy active lifestyle.
Pain is all in your head
Just as the pain from touching fire protects you from getting your hand burnt, chronic pain is your body’s way of telling you that something is wrong and protecting yours from further harm. When you feel pain, your body activates pain receptors, releasing chemicals that travel from the source of the pain to the spinal cord and finally to the brain carrying with it the message that you feel pain. The irony is that the brain itself cannot feel pain but rather it can only learn that your body feels it based on the messages the receptors send it.
People use pain to get sympathy
In fact, most people who suffer from pain actually hide their suffering, leaving no indication to the people around them that they actually hurt. On the other hand, if an individual fakes pain to get attention, it may mean a psychological reason inflicts them, a condition that a multi-modal treatment program administered by a chronic pain specialist can help with.
Medication is the only way to deal with chronic pain
Actually, chronic pain specialists have many other ways to treat chronic pain including massage, stretching, acupuncture, physical therapy, and meditation. For example, meditation helps with pain relief by lowering anxiety and slowing down the metabolism which increases the body’s pain tolerance.
Opioids are the only medication that provides relief from chronic pain
Family doctors do commonly treat pain first with Opioids. They work well because they block the spinal cord from feeling pain, but they do not represent the only tool for pain management. In fact, depending on the cause of the pain, there are other types of medications that your family practitioner can prescribe as well as non-medication treatments available. Three common medication treatment options include anti-inflammatories, anti-depressants, and muscle relaxers.
Anti-inflammatories or NSAIDs work by reducing swelling relieving the pressure on the area where the pain has initiated. While the medical profession does not know exactly why or how anti-depressants relieve pain, one theory suggests that they increase serotonin and epinephrine levels in the body that block pain signals. Finally, muscle relaxers reduce muscle spasms that commonly cause pain. Your pain management specialist will work with you to get you on the right pain management program.
People who suffer from chronic pain become addicted to pain relievers
While some individuals do become dependent and even addicted to pain medications, when taken properly under your general practitioner’s supervision, you can manage medications so that they don’t take control over your life. Pain medication addiction can be avoided by
- Only taking the medication as prescribed by your general practitioner keeping consistent with both dose amount and time intervals regardless of whether or not you actually feel pain.
- Being aware of addiction indications which include running out of medication before your next refill, seeing multiple doctors to get prescriptions, and taking other peoples’ medications.
- Avoiding taking medications when there is no indication of pain.
- Tapering off, with the help of your family practitioner, medications that might lead to addiction.
- Knowing your risk level. People who have had addictions to drugs in the past or have family members with drug addictions have a higher risk for pain medication addiction. By discussing this with your chronic pain specialist, you can look at other, non-addictive alternatives to opioids for pain treatment.
If you work through the pain, it will go away
Working through pain not only doesn’t make it go away, it can actually make it worse as an already weakened body part now has to overextend itself to maintain normal activity. Pain tells you that something in your body has malfunctioned. When we ignore pain, we also ignore our natural protection against further harm. While our understanding of the body does support exercise and stretching even with pain, we also know that a few days rest helps to heal the area that has caused the pain.
People with chronic pain always suffer
For some, chronic pain comes in spurts that might last for days, weeks or even months, but it isn’t necessarily permanent and constant. Chronic pain sufferers, like anyone else, have both good days where they feel no pain and live quite normal lives, but they also have bad days that keep them from enjoying activities and being productive.
Pain should be expected with age
Yes, as you age, feeling pain is more common. Your body slows and becomes less pliable and you may have developed conditions like arthritis and/or scar tissue from surgeries that can haunt you in later years. However, with a lifestyle that includes exercise, a healthy diet, and regular visits to your doctor, even in your later years you can live relatively free of chronic pain.
Any doctor can help with chronic pain
It is sometimes difficult to find the true source of chronic pain leading many general practitioners to resort to opioids as the first defense against pain. On the other hand, a pain management doctor who has training in evaluating, diagnosing, and treating different types of pain will help you explore other pain management treatment options. The benefits of seeing a pain management physician include
- Specialized understanding of pain management.
- Psychological help to deal with fear, depression, and frustration.
- Chronic pain doctors who can prescribe medications.
- Specialized pain management treatment options and equipment.
Not All Chronic Pain Is Equal
There are four basic types of chronic pain—nociceptive, neuropathic, psychogenic, and idiopathic. Each has its own causes and effects.
Nociceptive Pain: This pain occurs in the soft tissues and organs and is commonly felt as headaches, arthritis, and fibromyalgia. It can be somatic in nature, coming from sensory nerves in the muscles or soft tissue, including the skin. On the other hand, it can be visceral coming from the internal organs from conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, prostate cancer, or cystitis.
Neuropathic Pain: Like nociceptive pain, neuropathic pain also comes from the nerves, but the difference is that neuropathic pain doesn’t occur because the soft tissue or organs aren’t functioning properly, but rather that the nerve itself is not acting as it should. This pain felt like a sharp stabbing pain, comes from nerve damage. Two common examples of this type of pain include phantom limb pain and sciatica.
Psychogenic: Psychological conditions like depression occasionally cause psychogenic pain felt as aches and fatigue in the body. Because of its psychological nature, it’s harder to diagnose than both nociceptive and neuropathic pain, but for the sufferer, the pain does exist.
Idiopathic: Idiopathic pain seems to have no known origin making it the hardest for family doctors to both diagnose and treat, but chronic pain doctors do have evidence that their patients feel it. Idiopathic pain is commonly felt by patients with TMJ and fibromyalgia.
At EZCare Clinic in San Francisco, we take a multi-modal approach to pain management treatment that heals the mind, body, and soul. Our team includes a staff of general practitioners, psychiatrist, psychologist, physiotherapist, and nurses. With our integrative approach, we can give you relief from chronic pain while keeping medication and its side effects to a minimum. Options for pain management treatment include
- Medications: While some common medications include opioids, we can also offer other medication options including anti-inflammatories, anti-depressants, and muscle relaxers.
- Physical Therapy: Through massage, stretching exercises, and hot and cold treatments, you can relax the muscles and reduce the symptoms of pain.
- Acupuncture: A traditional Chinese treatment lasting over 2,500 years, acupuncture can treat many medical conditions that require pain management techniques. While several theories about how acupuncture works exist, the basic understanding is that it stimulates the body’s natural healing abilities.
- Education: With knowledge about pain management techniques, you can take control of your chronic pain so that it doesn’t control you. Our team of chronic pain specialists in San Francisco and San Jose can teach you skills like meditation, stretching exercise, and relaxation techniques that will help you to reduce your pain so you can live a normal healthy and happy life.
- Counseling: Living with chronic pain can lead to depression, stress, and anxiety. Our therapists and counselors can assist you with the emotional pitfalls of chronic pain.
At EZCare Medical clinic San Francisco, our team of pain management specialists shares a core belief in patient-centered care that promises respect and communication between you and your general practitioner as well as the rest of our staff. We strive to provide our clients with superior service while building a pain management treatment plan personalized for both our patients’ individual medical needs and lifestyle.
If you suffer from chronic pain from an accident or medical condition, you can put an end to living under the agony of chronic pain by calling EZCare Clinic in San Francisco, today. Our offices are open seven days a week and our staff eagerly awaits your call.