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How to manage chronic pain without making it worse

Chronic pain is one of the most common reasons people seek medical care. 

It’s more than just physical pain—it can have a severe impact on every aspect of your life, including social and family relationships, your psychological well-being, and your professional career.

Even though many people experience chronic pain, it’s widely misunderstood. To help you make more informed medical decisions, we’ve answered the 5 most asked questions among chronic pain patients. 

Dr. George Jiha, pain management specialist

1. Will exercise make my chronic pain worse?

One misconception most chronic pain patients have is believing any form of activity or exercise will increase their pain. It is highly likely that the opposite is true. In fact, bed rest is actually one of the worst things you can do for chronic pain. 

Becoming inactive will only make the pain worse when you do try to move. Limit your exercise when your pain is intense, but you should engage in your normal activities as much as you can. In most cases, mild to moderate exercise can help accelerate the road to recovery and alleviate pain.

2. Once my injury heals, shouldn’t my pain be gone too?

After a major injury or surgery, pain will typically go away after some period of time; however, it can persist even after the wound or injury has healed. Unlike acute pain that’s usually sudden and then subsides as the injury heals, chronic pain is persistent. It can even remain debilitating after your injury heals, especially if you experienced nerve damage. If you’ve been experiencing pain for more than three months, it is considered chronic. 

3. What are the most effective options for relieving my pain?

A common misconception about chronic pain is that relief treatment requires the use of opioids, such as oxycodone or morphine. 

A 2018 study from the Journal of the American Medical Association found that the use of opioids did not yield significant improvements in pain-related function. Many other options are more effective.

While patients may in some cases be prescribed a short course of opioids, these short-term prescriptions are typically designed to treat specific, acute (short-term) pain, or to be part of a more comprehensive treatment plan for chronic pain. 

Comprehensive treatment plans often include rehabilitation or physical therapy, injection treatments, and non-opioid medications. Other alternative treatments shown to relieve chronic pain over time include aromatherapy, biofeedback, and relaxation techniques like massages and meditation.

4. Is my chronic pain just a natural symptom of aging?

People often assume that chronic pain is an inevitable part of getting older. Of course, as you age, some minor pain from physical wear and tear is natural. However, chronic pain is not normal and can be debilitating for patients of all ages. 

In some cases, your chronic pain may not have an obvious cause. But for most, the pain starts after an injury or because of an underlying health condition. A few of the top causes include past injuries or surgeries, back problems, arthritis, and nerve damage.

5. How much pain relief can I expect from treatment?

Measuring and treating pain is rather difficult because everyone experiences it differently. This is another reason why chronic pain is so often misunderstood. 

To relieve the pain, your healthcare provider will develop an approach based on aspects like the type of pain you’re in, the cause of your pain (if known), as well as your age and overall health. The best treatments will use a variety of strategies, like medications, lifestyle changes, and therapies.

A crucial thing to keep in mind with pain management treatment is that progress is usually incremental. You’re not going to jump right back into your daily routine after the first treatment. 

The goal is to manage – not cure – chronic pain, and to circumvent it so that you can eventually return to your daily routine.

Questions to ask your doctor

If you’ve been experiencing chronic pain, seeking the guidance of a trained pain management professional should be a top priority. A handful of questions you can ask your healthcare provider are:

  • What’s causing my pain?
  • Will it go away? If not, why not?
  • Should I try physical or psychological therapy?
  • What medications do you recommend and are there any side effects?
  • What else can I do to relieve my chronic pain?

Whether your pain is a symptom of a more complex medical condition, the result of a back injury or disc herniation, or if it simply occurs with little improvement over time, our pain management specialists at St. Francis Pain Management can help you improve your quality of life.

To speak with one of our specialists on managing your chronic pain, contact us today.

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