Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Chronic Pain - Debunking the Myths

This is a copy from an article from my hospital, The Hospital for Special Surgery.  (the hospitals main website

Please note number 9...

I am including the link and copying the article here:

 Anesthesiology Department - Chronic Pain

Top 10 Myths of Chronic Pain

Philip J. Wagner, MD
Attending Anesthesiologist
Hospital for Special Surgery

Misconceptions about chronic pain can do harm to people with legitimate medical problems.  Patients with chronic pain can and should be treated. Dispelling these damaging myths should raise awareness and encourage more people to seek help with a professional trained in treating chronic pain.

Chronic pain is defined as pain that persists for at least 6 months. It may result from an initial injury or problem, such as a herniated disk, serious infection, or surgery.  There may be an ongoing cause of pain, such as arthritis, scar, or cancer.  Some people suffer chronic pain in the absence of any past injury or evidence of damage to the body. Unfortunately, many people with chronic pain do not get the help they need, and the effects may be devastating, not only for the sufferer, but also for an entire family.

Chronic pain is a huge problem in terms of its human and economic toll -- it disables more people than cancer or heart disease, and the annual cost to society in terms of medical treatment, lost working days, decreased productivity and workers compensation is a staggering $100 billion a year. 


Myth #1: If the doctor can’t find anything wrong medically with a patient with chronic pain, it must be "in their head.”  Maybe they’re crazy.
Fact:  Chronic pain is not “in your head.” It is a legitimate medical condition that can and should be treated. Unfortunately, the exact cause of chronic pain cannot always be found. Pain is a complex personal experience, and not all doctors have received adequate training to treat it.  Pain management specialists are specifically trained to recognize and treat common and unusual conditions that cause ongoing pain. Although not all pain has an identifiable cause, there is an effective treatment for most painful conditions.


Myth #2: If people seek treatment or complain about their pain, it means they’re weak.

Fact:  Seeking treatment has nothing to do with being weak. Many people with chronic pain feel trapped and helpless, and do not want to burden anyone else with their problem. It is important for them to realize that there is no need to suffer because effective treatments are available.


Myth #3: People who take powerful opiate ("narcotic") pain medication become drug addicts.

Fact: Opiates are highly effective for many types of pain and can be given safely. Physical dependence from pain relievers is different from addiction. Drug addiction is characterized by compulsive craving and use of a drug, which results in physical, psychological, and social harm to the user. An addict’s drug use continues in spite of predictable, consistent harm (self-destructive behavior.) The vast majority of people taking opiate medications for pain management do NOT become addicted.  Drug dependence, where the body becomes used to the presence of a drug, can occur with the prolonged use of some pain relievers.


Myth #4: The side effects of opiate painkillers turn people into zombies and can stop their breathing.

Fact:  Most side effects are mild, tolerable, treatable, occur at the beginning of therapy, and fade with time.  Common side effects include constipation, drowsiness, and dry mouth. Careful adjustment of dosages and attention to patient concerns help alleviate most side effects.


Myth #5: People with chronic pain treated with opiate pain medications will have to take more and more medication as time goes by to get the same pain relief (tolerance.)

Fact:  Most patients have stable dosages with time.  Increases in medication dosage usually result from worsening physical or psychological status.


Myth #6: Some people don’t want to get better because they benefit from being in pain.

Fact:  Most people don’t enjoy being in pain. Research shows that exaggerating about pain and malingering are actually rare. Assistance from others when pain limits activities or financial compensation for a work-related injury is appropriate for people who suffer from chronic pain.


Myth #7: Ignoring the pain will make it go away.

Fact:  In most cases, ignoring ongoing pain will not make it go away, and it may even get worse.  It is better to seek help from a caring, experienced specialist when pain persists and becomes a problem.


Myth #8: People should try to overcome their pain by pushing themselves to do things.

Fact:  Knowing one’s limits and pacing oneself can help people manage their pain. Overdoing it and pushing too hard can exacerbate pain


Myth #9: If someone looks good, they can’t be in pain.

Fact:  Many people with chronic pain go about their business and do as much as they can, in spite of their pain.  There are no outward signs of chronic pain (unlike acute pain). Just because people look comfortable does not mean they are not in pain.  This misunderstanding creates much emotional distress for people with chronic pain.


Myth #10: Many people have been to several doctors, but haven’t been helped. They’ve been suffering from chronic pain for so long, they’ll just have to live with it.

Fact: With few exceptions, there is no need for anybody to live with unbearable pain.  A variety of treatment options are available, but it is important to find the right doctor.  Just as people see a cardiologist for heart disease or an ophthalmologist for an eye ailment, pain management specialists are trained to treat chronic pain. Patients should make sure they see a qualified pain specialist to get the treatment they need.  Pain management specialists will listen carefully to the history, perform a thorough physical examination, and may refer a patient for other tests or medical consultations before coming up with a comprehensive plan for care.

Since there are many of us J-landers who cope with Chronic pain, Dan, Karyl, Luanne, just to name a few, I think this is an important read for them and for them to print out for their families.

be well,



justplainbill said...

Dawn, thanks for sharing.
My wife has been under pain management for several. She says it has helped her arthritis in her back. She gets a series of three shots over a period of month and it lasts about ten months. I believe it is a steroid that she gets.
I also have a pain in my lower left abdomen which I have just now decided, based on your post, that I will prusue the possibility of some relief rather then just living with it.
Thanks again, Bill

jckfrstross said...

this is great Dawn can you send this to me in an email? i would love to have this and will share with my sis. she has MS and she has heard so many things oh just work through the pain or you take to many pills ha i have heard my share also if you have never had chronic pain you don't understand thank you for sharing this


jckfrstross said...

never mind Dawn i found the site lol i am slow tonight:)


rdautumnsage said...

(Huge Hugs) Thank you so much for this. I have days that are so god awful, I rarely talk about it. Of course if you know my history, I have had so many fractures and broken bones in my body. I swear sometimes I'm haunted by the pain. Three years ago I was placed on Ultracet (By a doctor I wouldn't even recommend to the devil) I was on it for 2 long years and my dosage kept increasing. Until finally I said enough. Now a year later I'm embarking on having pain throughout my body again. This article helped me realize there are dr.'s who do specialize in chronic pain and who can help without keeping me overly medicated. Of course I was warned as I get older , I would end up having recurring pain due to my body being so badly broken up. (Hugs) Hey I'm alive and there isn't a day I don't appreciate that. Love Ya Indigo

sunnyside46 said...

this is a very informative post, Dawn

toonguykc said...

This country is so medieval when it comes to dealing with certain health issues...and when they CAN do something -- it's outrageously expensive!!  Grrrr.


nana0014 said...

Thanks for sharing.
Take care, Chrissie

thebaabee said...

I can always count on you to bring these importants issues to light.  A while ago I wrote a journal entry regarding the addiction vs. need.  Pain has become another vital sign.  When I am in the ER it is mostly due to my chronic pain.  And, when asked to rate my pain on a scale of one to ten (ten being the worse pain), I am always at an 8.  And, I say I am happy it's not a 10.  Although, with the aid of my pain management specialist my pain (aside from this week, and I have no idea why except to say I must be starting to flare) my pain level has gone down to a 5.  Which is a good thing for me.   I often wonder if pain = flare or flare  = pain?  For those of us suffering from chronic debilitating illnesses such as RA or Lupus this is always a quandry.  One never knows what is going to bring on a flare.  Hugs, Lu

eml625 said...

Dawn ,
this was interesting thank you!

ksgal3133 said...

Thanks for sharing this with everyone :)
Many prayers!

mrsm711 said...

I love Myths and Facts.  Thanks for sharing.  :)     Tracy

klconard1 said...

And a big AMEN to this entry dear!  Thank you for including this.
loving you

gazker said...

Such good Q&A's interesting, facts aout pain there.

randlprysock said...

Very interesting.  Thank you for sharing!!!  I appear to be blessed with some chronic ingrown toenails. Chronic cough from a bit of smoking... ummm, chronic craving for chocolate and peanuts....  chronic house cleaning addiction.  Did they mention chronic need for money???  LOL.  Hugs,
Lisa : )

tenyearnap said...

Hey, I thought I was getting all my Alerts, but I didn't get this one. Damn.
Powerful myths that need continual de-bunking. Thanks.--Cin

lurkynat said...

thank you Dawn! illuminating!

cacklinrosie101 said...

Dawn, this is a wonderful entry!  Those of us who don't suffer from chronic pain are clueless and can be very judgmental.  You are right, there are very many in JLand suffering from chronic pain.  Thanks for opening eyes...HUGS  Chris

iiimagicxx said...

yes... I had to stop jogging last March (06) for chronic pains in my feet (soles)... never went, still suffering from it a lot
Thanks for that entry

bhbner2him said...

Thank you for sharing this.  It will help.  -  Barbara