Understanding and Managing Pain Better

The medical community in the United States has mismanaged pain for many years. It is time for a better understanding of pain to be brought to the forefront. This mismanagement is clearly evident in the number of opiod/pain medication prescriptions written, the number of deaths and addictions due to these prescriptions medications. Unfortunately, medical providers are all too quick to prescribe pain medications, perform injections, or surgery before properly educating their patients about pain as well as the pit falls of medication, injections, and surgery.

Some staggering facts about pain medication in the United States:

  1. In 2012 health care providers wrote 259 million opiod/pain medication prescriptions, enough for every American to have their own bottle of pills

  2. Deaths related to opiod/pain medications have quadrupled.

  3. The United States is 4.5% of the world population but consumes 80% of the world’s opiod painkillers.

Often times a patient’s pain is explained to them by their medical provider with a MRI or X ray findings (for example: degenerative discs, stenosis, or buldging discs), but interestingly enough many  people with similar findings  on an MRI or X ray have no pain. So we can’t always rely on these findings as the cause of an individual’s pain.

Current research in Pain Neuroscience Education is providing a better, safer option for people who suffer with pain, chronic or acute.

Understanding that pain comes from the brain and that it is our bodies alarm system allows us to understand the important role pain plays to keep us safe.  Unfortunately, the longer we have had pain, the less reliable this alarm system becomes. It is as if the brain is telling us there is a fire, but it is a false alarm. The nervous system becomes overly sensitive the longer we have had pain and that alarm can get set off easily, even though there is no danger. When it comes to chronic pain, we can’t always trust our brain.

Pain is multi factorial meaning, many things affect how and why we feel pain. Certainly stress, lack of sleep, a poor diet and our thoughts and beliefs affect how we interpret pain.  If we have been told our back is out of alignment, or we have a herniated disc, most of us believe this is the source of our pain and it scares us and makes us afraid to move or cause further damage. This fear makes us less active and only worsens our problem.

The best approach is certainly one that includes education about pain, as well as exercise, stress reduction techniques, deep breathing, and proper nutrition. Evaluation of what fears the patient has due to their pain and a treatment plan to conquer these fears.

Physical Therapists with advanced training in pain science offer a safer approach to pain than chronic use of medication, injections and surgery.  More often than not physical therapy should be the first treatment utilized for pain as it is safe and effective without the negative side effects of pain medication, surgery and injections.

Research has shown that the quicker a patient gets into physical therapy the sooner they are on their way to recovery. Additionally, there is a significant reduction in health care dollars spent by the patient. In today’s environment with high insurance copayments and co insurances, this cost savings is critical. Physical therapists contribute to promoting a sense of self reliance and confidence in a positive outcome. The CDC has cited high quality evidence for physical therapy and its effectiveness in pain management.

“There is one consolation in being sick: and that is the possibility that you may recover to a better state than you ever were before.” Henry David Thoreau

Don’t delay, see a physical therapist who specializes in Pain Science Education today and be on your way to a better tomorrow.