Many aches and pains go away on their own, naturally healing as time passes. But sometimes pain becomes chronic.
In fact, one out of three Americans has chronic pain, according to the National Institutes of Health.
For many, chronic pain wasn’t always chronic
People with chronic pain often report that “I thought it was just a pulled muscle but it’s been hurting for a long time now.” Over time, they realize that their “temporary” problem has become a permanent fixture in their lives. They now dread grocery store and mall trips because they know that shooting hip pains will keep them awake that night. They avoid picking up their kids, because they fear lower back spasm.
If you’re experiencing persistent pain, use this checklist to help you decide whether it it’s time to consult with a pain specialist:
- I’ve tried self-care techniques like heat, stretching, RICE or over-the-counter pain relief pills or ointments
- I’ve tried not using my problem area to let it heal and avoid making it worse
- I’ve tried changing how I do things to avoid triggering pain episodes
- I’ve stopped doing things I normally want to do because I’m afraid they’ll hurt too much
- I’ve considered, tried or chosen not to use surgery and/or injections
- I’ve considered, tried, or chosen not to use prescription anti-inflammatories, muscle relaxers, and/or pain medications
If most of your answers are “yes,” your next step is an appointment with a pain specialist.
Professional pain relief is multidisciplinary and patient-specific
Many different licensed healthcare providers specialize in pain relief — doctors, physical therapists, acupuncturists, chiropractors, medical massage therapists and others. When chronic pain persists, it may take several therapies in combination to find relief. Pain centers and pain specialists who take a multidisciplinary approach may be useful if previous treatment hasn’t helped.
Work with the provider or team you choose to immediately address your acute pain. Then, work with your pain relief team to develop an individual plan that moves you step-by-step from pain relief to restoring your ability to participate in and enjoy your normal activities.
Your first appointment should include a thorough evaluation of your concerns, symptoms and health history, including previous attempts to relieve your pain. Specific therapeutic recommendations should only be made after that evaluation is complete.
Today, chronic pain can be managed and often relieved through an individualized selection of therapies, allowing patients to reclaim the pain-free life they remember.