Are You In Pain? You’re Not Alone
You don’t need to live with constant pain. Although chronic pain rarely goes away completely, your health care team has many options to make your pain more bearable.
No Gain From Pain
When it comes to pain, some people believe that they should “grin and bear it.” Others feel that their health care team isn’t interested in their pain.
In truth, poorly managed pain is bad for your health and can lead to other problems.
- Pain causes harmful changes to your body.
- Untreated pain can lead to anger, irritability, depression, and poor sleep. It can make the quality of your life worse.
- Persistent pain affects your relationships with family and friends, and your ability to do your job.
The longer you wait to address your pain, the more difficult it becomes to treat. Your first step is to find a health care team that can help you.
Finding the Right Healthcare Team For You
Not all health care providers are well trained to assess and treat pain. Others may have personal biases against treating pain.
To find a treatment that works, you may need to interview several health care providers. Look for people who:
- Believe your reports of pain. (Don’t work with anyone who tells you “it’s all in your head.”)
- Have experience treating pain.
- Thoroughly explain to you the risks and benefits of various treatments.
- Listen to your questions and make sure you understand their answers.
- Regularly assess your pain and monitor your progress.
- Refer you to a specialist if you are not getting adequate relief.
When you interview healthcare providers, ask these questions:
- Do you have experience treating my condition?
- How would you describe effective pain management?
- What treatment options are available for me?
- How will you select my treatment plan?
- How much relief can I expect to receive from these treatments?
- What side effects should I look for? How can I manage them?
- What are the short-term and long-term outlooks for my condition?
Once you have found a good team, the next step is yours. Not everyone is comfortable talking about pain, but your team needs accurate information to treat you. Provide these details:
- How long you have had pain.
- Where the pain hurts the worst.
- What treatments you have tried on your own, and how they have worked for you.
- What makes the pain better or worse.
- How the pain feels. For example, is it sharp, dull, or achy?
- How the pain interferes with your activities, including work, dealing with family and friends, and ability to care for yourself.
Once your healthcare team understands your pain, a treatment plan is the next step. Your doctor may suggest medication. Some medications are available over-the-counter.
Others, you can only get with a prescription. Doctors rely on several families of drugs to treat pain:
- NSAIDs – used to treat mild to moderate pain and inflammation. Aspirin and ibuprofen are both NSAIDs.
- Acetaminophen – also used to treat mild to moderate pain.
- Opioids – prescribed to people who have moderate to severe pain.
In addition to medications, other treatments such as massage, physical therapy, relaxation therapy, and behavioral and psychological therapy may be helpful.