Living With PainWebMD archives content after 2 years to ensure our readers can easily find the most timely content. To find the most current information, please enter your topic of interest into our search box. When you have chronic painit's hard to debilitating pain out the myths from the facts. To feel better, are you supposed to rest in bed or go jogging? Should you talk to your doctor about trying debilitating pain opioid painkillers or should you steer clear? Is it worth trying that "miracle cure" debilitating pain your co-worker absolutely swears cured her sciatica? Chronic pain is a serious and debilitating condition.
6 Most Debilitating Diseases in the World | | Chronic Body Pain
WebMD archives content after 2 years to ensure our readers can easily find the most timely content. To find the most current information, please enter your topic of interest into our search box. When you have chronic pain , it's hard to sort out the myths from the facts. To feel better, are you supposed to rest in bed or go jogging? Should you talk to your doctor about trying potent opioid painkillers or should you steer clear? Is it worth trying that "miracle cure" that your co-worker absolutely swears cured her sciatica?
Chronic pain is a serious and debilitating condition. Many people suffering with chronic pain are so desperate for help that they're willing to believe anything -- and as a result buy into some chronic pain myths that could be unwise and even dangerous. To help you separate the chronic pain myths from the facts, WebMD turned to noted pain management specialists.
Here's what they had to say. Treating chronic pain is just not that simple. Yes, sometimes treating the cause does resolve the pain: Anyone with chronic pain must get a complete work-up by a doctor to see if there's a treatable problem or disease, says Anne Louise Oaklander, MD, PhD, an associate professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School.
But in many cases, the intersection of an underlying cause and pain is more complicated. Painful diseases might be chronic and hard to control.
Sometimes pain lingers even after the original cause seems to have been resolved. Other times, the cause of pain is just plain mysterious. People with chronic pain often need a two-pronged approach: That often means seeing a pain expert as well as other doctors.
Pain experts say that too many people still struggle through life with chronic pain for no reason. People think that if their pain is bearable, it's not worth asking a doctor about it. However, you need to get pain evaluated, even if it's mild.
First, it could be the sign of an underlying disease or health problem that needs treatment. Second, treating pain promptly can sometimes prevent it from turning into hard-to- treat chronic pain. Beyond that, it's always important to take pain seriously in its own right. Chronic pain is insidious. It sneaks up on people, worsening slowly and imperceptibly.
Without realizing it, you might develop unhealthy ways of coping with it. That might include using over-the-counter painkillers for a long time or at high doses, which can have serious risks. People with chronic pain are also at higher risk of relying on alcohol or other substances to numb their pain. Over time, chronic pain can also lead to sleep deprivation , social isolation, depression , and other problems that can affect your relationships at home and at work. The old medical advice for people with some types of chronic pain -- such as back pain -- was to rest in bed.
But that's not the case anymore. It turns out that for most causes of pain, keeping up your normal schedule -- including your physical activity -- will help you get better faster. Of course, there are some situations where rest is important -- especially for a day or two after an acute injury. So always follow your doctor's advice. Pain experts say there is one particularly damaging myth about chronic pain. Too many people think that pain is just a sign of aging and that there's not much to be done about it.
It's unquestionably true that our odds of developing a painful condition, such as arthritis , are higher as we age. But those conditions can be treated and the pain can be well-controlled. So no matter what your age, never settle for chronic pain. For many people, chronic pain is intertwined with depression -- as well as anxiety and other psychological conditions. Often, it's impossible to tell where one cause ends and the other starts. Of course, some people with chronic pain don't like this idea.
They feel that accepting a psychological connection to pain implies that they're making it up, that their pain is "all in their heads.
Depression and anxiety disorders are real medical conditions. Studies have also shown a clear connection between emotional trauma and pain disorders.
Brain imaging studies have actually found that physical and psychological pain activates some identical areas in the brain , says Seddon R. Acknowledging that chronic pain and depression are connected in no way diminishes what you're feeling. Also, some antidepressants have been shown to help manage certain types of chronic pain. Your doctor might suggest an antidepressant for your chronic pain, even if you are not depressed.
As a result, some people with terrible chronic pain refuse medication that could really help them. There are instances where doctors need to be especially careful with opioids, Oaklander says. For instance, people who have a strong personal or family history of addiction are at higher risk. Although opioids are effective at treating pain , they are not the Holy Grail of pain relief. Some people think that if they could only get their doctor to give them a prescription, their troubles would be over.
They're not effective with all types of pain. They can cause unpleasant side effects. A physical dependency can develop if pain management and treatment is not monitored. That's not an addiction -- instead, their bodies acclimate to the medication.
Over time they need higher doses to get the same level of relief. Opioids seem to increase the risk that other treatment approaches will fail. There's even evidence that opioids can result in chronic pain, Cohen says. A person with mild, occasional headaches might develop chronic, debilitating ones after using high doses of opioids.
So depending on the cause of chronic pain, opioid painkillers might help. But they're not the universal "best" treatment for chronic pain. They're just one tool among many others, from anti-inflammatory medicines to alternative therapies such as acupuncture. Maybe it's a new drug or a new surgical technique that they read about in the paper.
Or maybe it's a device or a supplement they see advertised on a 3 a. But they're hoping that there's one answer for them that will take their pain away completely.
Coping with chronic pain is rarely that simple. Savage says that tackling chronic pain often requires a team of experts using a combination of approaches -- different medications, physical therapy , psychological counseling, relaxation techniques, and more -- to get it the pain control. You will get better, but it will take some hard work, different treatments, and time. It's unfortunate but true. But don't get discouraged. Even if experts can't make your chronic pain disappear completely, treatment can still make a big difference.
Pain isn't everything, after all -- it's how your pain affects your quality of life that matters most. Maybe you'll still have some pain after treatment. Pain Management Feature Stories. Even Mild Chronic Pain Should Be Checked by a Doctor Pain experts say that too many people still struggle through life with chronic pain for no reason.
Continued However, you need to get pain evaluated, even if it's mild. Bed Rest Is Usually the Best Cure for Pain The old medical advice for people with some types of chronic pain -- such as back pain -- was to rest in bed.
Chronic Pain Is Connected With Depression For many people, chronic pain is intertwined with depression -- as well as anxiety and other psychological conditions. Continued "There's a big downside to treatment with opioids," Cohen says.
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