September is Pain Awareness Month, and Emory Pain Center is raising awareness around the issues of pain and pain management. Did you know that nearly 100 million Americans experience chronic pain where chronic pain is defined as pain that lasts longer than six months? That’s more than those who have diabetes, heart disease and cancer combined! Living with pain can be debilitating and adversely affect everyday life. Understanding more about the underlying cause of pain can help improve treatment and alleviate suffering. The Emory Pain Center wants to debunk the five most common myths about pain in order to help you get back to living actively again.
Myth 1: I have to live with the pain.
Many people feel that they have to live with pain even when no cause for their pain is found. The lack of a reason why you have pain does not mean your pain is any less real; instead, this pain needs to be treated by a specialist. Pain physicians have specialized training in the treatment of pain and will work with you to create a personalized treatment plan. In addition to medications tailored to the type of pain you are having, there are also pain injections and more advanced treatments that can isolate and treat the source of your pain. Almost always something can be done to improve most painful conditions, and a pain physician may be able to help.
Myth 2: Pain medication = narcotics or opioids.
Pain medications can range from over the counter pain relievers, such as aspirin, ibuprofen or creams, to prescription-strength medications recommended by your doctor. While narcotics (opioids) may relieve pain temporarily, these medications are not recommended for long-term use due to decreased effectiveness and side effects, such as constipation, drowsiness and hormone suppression. A pain physician will work with you to identify and provide a combination of therapies that may include medication, physical therapy or more advanced medical interventions that will allow safe, long-term relief.
Myth 3: All back pain is the same.
There are many different causes of back pain. It is important to identify which type of back pain you have, so your pain specialist can target the correct area for treatment. Back pain that stays around the muscles in your lower back is different from pain that starts in your back and moves to your hips and legs. There are some signs and symptoms associated with back pain that may be serious and require further evaluation and possibly surgery. If you or a family member is experiencing back pain with any of these symptoms, consult your physician immediately:
- loss of control of bowel or bladder function
- history of cancer
- weight loss
- recent infection, fever
- leg weakness or loss of control of legs
Myth 4: All headaches originate in the head.
There is a subset of headaches that come from the upper part of your neck. They often start in the back of your head and may move to the top of your head or behind your eye. These headaches, often aggravated by movement of your head from side to side or up and down, are often mistaken as migraine headaches. Be sure to discuss your symptoms with your physician to ensure the most effective treatment.
Myth 5: I can’t exercise if I am in pain.
This is a common misconception regarding pain, particularly because patients are afraid of making things worse. Lack of exercise can actually contribute to increased pain. Exercise promotes the release of the body’s natural endorphins, also known as “happy hormones,” which can have both pain-relieving and mood-boosting effects. For certain types of pain, some activities should be limited, but this does not mean ending all exercise. For example, it is generally not a good idea to lift heavy weights; however, light aerobic activity, such as walking, swimming or stretching exercises, including tai chi or yoga, are often beneficial. These low-impact activities help to strengthen muscles and ligaments and take strain off of painful joints. It is better to participate in light physical activity than no activity. If you are unsure what exercises are best for your condition, be sure to consult your physician or physical therapist.
Our interventional pain specialist at Emory Pain Center are dedicated to finding answers for chronic pain through research, diagnosis and treatment using the latest therapies and technologies. Emory Pain Center approaches each case with an individualized diagnosis and treatment plan based on the patient’s medical history, life circumstances and specific needs. If you or someone you know is suffering from chronic pain, contact Emory Pain Center at 404-686-2410 to schedule an appointment.