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Let’s bust the top 5 chronic pain myths

No matter who you ask, everyone has an opinion these days about chronic pain, and how you should be dealing with it. If you’re in pain, it’s natural that you want to do as much research as possible on what you’re dealing with and how to help relieve it, but do be careful of some commonly shared myths about chronic pain. 

Chronic pain myth #1:

“I heard that chronic pain isn’t real; it’s all in your head or it’s just part of getting older.”

Well, yes and no. There is a phenomenon called ‘psychogenic pain,’ wherein your mind does seem to cause pain without a current physical source. It often occurs after an injury or some other painful experience, once the physical issues have healed and pain should theoretically be reduced. While science is still catching up with this discovery to fully understand it, theories do currently point to issues with the nervous system as a cause. One theory is something called a ‘pain memory,’ which is when your nerves hold on to the pain response long after the injury has healed. Or, it could be a cause of the nervous system getting its signals mixed as a result of the initial injury—the pathways between the brain and the points in the body receiving sensation get misinterpreted as pain signals rather than some other sensation or stressor.

If this is the case, the pain you’re experiencing is no less valid, nor less in need of treatment to refocus your life. As pain management specialists come to understand more about these theories, options for treatment will become more readily available and you should take advantage of them!

Chronic pain myth #2:

“Doctors only want to give you opioids; it’s better to just suck it up and deal with it.”

Because of the opioid epidemic, primary care providers are more leery about treating chronic pain with opioids. Few doctors now lean on opioids as the sole treatment factor for a chronic pain patient. And pain management specialists are even more cognizant of this—most will offer a multi-faceted treatment plan including physical therapy, therapeutic exercise, complementary and alternative medicines including chiropractic and massage therapy, and a variety of other classes of pain management pharmaceuticals, such as anti-inflammatories and corticosteroids. In fact, some pain management practitioners even have addiction specialists on staff to ensure that if opioids are utilized, it’s done so in a safe and controlled manner.

Chronic pain myth #3:

“Going keto (or vegan or paleo or fruitatarian) will reduce inflammation—it’s all you need to heal your chronic pain.”

Eat blueberries and kale! Well, sure, if you happen to like them! Unfortunately, it’s not going to be the miracle cure for your inflammation and chronic pain. If you eat Jello, the collagen isn’t going to magically transform into the version that lubricates your joints and skin.  While there are diets that can improve your health overall, it doesn’t appear that they’re specifically linked to inflammation. You can talk with a pain management specialist and dietician to learn more about different diet options that can improve your quality of life. 

Chronic pain myth #4:

“Don’t exercise when you’re in pain, you’ll just make it worse! Relax and put some ice on it.”

Therapeutic exercise and physical therapy are key factors in managing chronic pain—they definitely shouldn’t be avoided! Movement therapy does more than ease discomfort—it can help address some of the contributing factors to why the patient is feeling a particular sensation in the first place! A skilled pain management or rehabilitation center can evaluate your body movements And prescribe targeted exercises that will help your joints move more comfortably. Staying active and establishing regular movement habits is one key to managing pain and functioning your best.

As for managing pain with ice, the answer is: maybe, sometimes, it depends. Ice has long been used to control pain and swelling after an initial injury. New evidence has us questioning if overusing ice can delay the body’s natural healing response. New recommendations emphasize using compression and active recovery to control swelling, with brief intermittent use of ice for pain.  For more chronic conditions, heat may be something to try as heat promotes circulation, however too much can lead to more swelling and stiffness. Both heat and ice if used appropriately can be very effective as a non-medicative analgesic—providing a new sensation to mask the pain you may be experiencing without taking drugs. Your pain management and rehabilitation providers can direct you to a regimen that will be the most helpful for your condition.

Chronic pain myth #5:

“Pain management is only necessary after surgery.”

In fact, the best pain management efforts can prevent surgery! The goal of any good pain management practitioner is to return you to peak function with minimal invasiveness. These trained and skilled specialists can help manage varied aspects of a patient’s treatment, including monitoring their progress in physical therapy, coordinating alternative treatments such as acupuncture or neuromuscular massage, and even performing outpatient procedures such as steroid injections or spinal cord stimulator insertion to help patients live with pain that isn’t best treated through surgery.

If your condition does happen to require surgery, pain management specialists can also provide great benefit prior to, throughout, and after the procedure. Specialists might introduce many of the post-operative techniques prior to the procedure to help patients prepare mentally and emotionally for the event. Post-surgical chronic pain is such an issue that many hospital systems are graded based on how they prevent or manage the potential for a surgical event and postoperative pain. Your pain management specialist can be the resource you need to address pain management at every stage of your experience. When you’re in pain, your first instinct is to try to learn as much about your predicament as possible.

iSpine Clinics: Your Twin Cities chronic musculoskeletal pain specialists

Unfortunately, these are only a handful of the common myths about chronic pain floating around the Internet. You should always refer to a skilled medical specialist to help manage your pain and increase your quality of life. And that’s where the team at iSpine Clinics has you covered. With a dozen clinics across the Twin Cities, we are here to support your Pain Care and Rehabilitation needs. Contact us, today, for a consultation.