Chronic pain is a serious health condition that has many causes, including injuries, illnesses and prolonged physical, emotional or social stress. In 2018 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report that an estimated 50 million Americans have some form of chronic pain.
Having to live with pain is uniquely personal. Factors like isolation, chronic stress, depression, anger and anxiety can exacerbate chronic pain.
Everyone deserves the best physical function and quality of life possible. When there isn’t a way to cure the pain, physicians look for ways to manage it so a person can improve their quality life. The most successful way to accomplish this is with a multi-faceted, individualized approach, which can include support from the person’s family and friends, consultations with a personal physician and specialists, and physical and alternative therapy.
In Episode 28, host Mark Gomez, MD, and his guest, David Peng, MD, discuss the causes of and treatment strategies for chronic pain.
Myths vs. Facts
“You shouldn’t exercise when you have chronic pain.” – Myth
Physical movement benefits every system in the human body. If you have chronic pain, it’s important to continue to find activity that doesn’t exacerbate your pain.
“Tolerating pain will help improve immunity.” – Myth
Pain overall has been shown to decrease immunity.
“Medication is the only answer to treat persistent pain.” – Myth
Medication can be one avenue to treat pain, but pain is highly individualized. There are other, non-pharmacological ways it can be managed.
“Lots of rest is good for back pain.” – Myth
Studies have shown when someone has back pain, not moving is one of the worst things they can do. Although it doesn’t feel great when you do it, gentle, guided movement can help you recover more quickly.
“Chronic pain can kill you.” – Myth
Pain can have a significant impact on someone’s life, but it’s not a top 10 cause of death. Although pain can exacerbate other chronic conditions.
“Chronic pain always has an underlying cause.” – Fact
Sometimes pain is hard to diagnose, but there’s always a root cause.
“I just have to live with the pain.” – Myth
If a doctor can’t eliminate pain, he/she can find ways to make it more tolerable.
“Losing weight can ease pain.” – Both
Losing weight can help with other comorbid conditions and take some stress off joints. But losing weight itself is not directly related to pain reduction.
“Your attitude can affect pain.” – Fact
As difficult as it may be, maintaining a positive outlook is important when it comes to pain management. Managing pain often involves trying to create opportunities to be positive. That positivity has been shown to decrease the presence of pain signals in the body.
“Chronic pain is a normal part of getting older.” – Myth
As we age, everyone has aches and pains. But it shouldn’t be chronic. It shouldn’t impair your function.
“Pain killers lead to addiction.” – Myth
Pain killers don’t always lead to addiction.
Listener healthy OH-YEAH!
I was reading the book titled “Lifestyle Medicine Handbook” by Dr. Beth Frates and in it she challenges practitioners to challenge their patients to think about gratitude. The question is simple: What are you grateful for today? Just as Dr. Frates challenged me, I am now challenging you. I invite all of you amazing listeners of this podcast to try a gratitude journal for 30 days. I know as a fact that you will know first-hand the benefits of keeping a gratitude journal, as gratitude research has been shown to improve outlook and mindset. Just ask yourself “what are you grateful for today,” write it down, and see how it goes. Then when you’re ready, shoot me some of your pros and cons of adopting this new habit. Simply send a direct message to @Health360wDrG across all social media platforms. I genuinely enjoy hearing about your journey, and with your permission I will read it on the show. Who knows? Your story may inspire someone else who needs to hear it.