Many (even most?) of my patients come to me literally at the end of their rope. They have almost given up on the hope of breaking the cycle of chronic pain.
As if chronic pain wasn’t enough, going to several doctors with no results can make you feel even worse—it can even make you think that it’s all in your head.
Chronic pain is a 24/7 attack on every sense in our body. It infuses everything we do and wears us down. And it’s so much more than “in your head,” something suggested by doctors who can’t find the treatment you need.
You just haven’t found the right practitioner who will listen to you and work with you to figure out the issue and resolve it together. One of the biggest things patients need to know is how to be empowered to take their treatment and care into their own hands by asking more of their doctors and being their own advocate of health.
Empathy, advocacy critical to breaking the cycle of chronic pain
As a previous sufferer of chronic pain, I’ve been in your shoes. I get it. In fact, this is the exact reason I got into this field.
While modern medicine is great for certain things, over the years, I’ve found that most problems with the body can be solved by changing your lifestyle. I vow to take the time to learn about you and work with you (and without a medicine cabinet full of prescriptions) to help you feel your best.
Oftentimes, I have patients tell me after our introductory session that this is the first time they felt comfortable really opening up and talking about their pain. They have been ignored for so long, they got to the point where when they would find a new doctor, they would not even go into the details about every issue.
“I just knew it was pointless,” one female patient said to me. “I’ve been to at least 5 different doctors, none of which was telling me anything new, and all of whom would just prescribe yet another pain killer. On top of the physical pain, I am now facing depression and starting to think it was going crazy!”
End the cycle of chronic pain
The simple answer to ending the cycle of chronic pain is self-advocacy and research. However, it does take some time, patience, and persistence.
Self-advocacy may sound easy, but it can be a little terrifying, after all the person in the white coat has the M.D., so must know everything right? Wrong! Doctors don’t always have the answers.
Your job is to ask questions that help you both discover the answers by combining their expertise with your experience of your own body.
By asking questions, you also share any background information that the doctor can use to help identify the issue.
Here are few things to ask your doctor from tests they may take to medications and to alternative therapies:
- Why are these tests being done? What do they show?
- Are there any risks or side effects of taking the tests?
- What do I have to do to prepare for them?
- How is the test administered?
- When will I get back the results?
- Are there other tests I should get?
- Do I really need this test?
- How effective is this treatment?
- Are there any side effects?
- Will this medication interact with the other meds I’m taking?
- Are there any alternatives? What are they?
- What is the success rate?
- What should I expect after treatment? Is there any recovery time?
When it comes to the cycle of chronic pain, the underlying issue could be a range of things from a structural/biomechanical issue to an underlying low-grade viral pathogen that has been with you for years yet undiagnosed.
Chronic pain can also be tricky as the pain may not even show up in the place that it hurts; your leg ache could be due to your foot. It takes time and trial and error even to get the final answer—here’s where the patience comes in.
Fire up the computer and start to seek answers.
- Research doctors and practices.
- Research alternative solutions.
- Research what you think it could be, or caused by.
While I don’t recommend going down the Google rabbit hole, which never ends well, you should have an idea of what your symptoms are, and more importantly when they appear most. Do you hurt more after that bowl of ice cream? Or after the run that is supposed to make you feel great?
Researching doctors including reviews are also helpful. I had another patient tell me about a horrible experience at a doctor that she did research. Although the doctor was qualified, even best in the field, her bedside manner was horrible.
“I’m a 45-year-old professional woman,” she told me about the experience, “and here I am in a paper gown, tears running down my cheeks as this woman was so condescending and made me feel so small. I even brought in bloodwork results I recently got which she refused to even look at before telling me my diagnosis was completely wrong. Needless to say, I never went back to that doctor. It took me 3 years to go back to any doctor, I was so traumatized.”
As a restorative physician, my objective is to break the cycle of chronic pain that fully restores you to health and vitality, emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and physically. We are not body parts. We are whole beings and ending the cycle of chronic pain requires healing all of our being.
Please don’t give up if you’ve had a negative experience in the past. There is hope.