24 Secrets Pain Doctors Won’t Tell You
Learn what pain doctors are really thinking when you visit them, and how you can better manage your symptoms.
Meds are available, but…
Sure, they can give you some meds to dampen the pain. But the best doctors will talk to you about the cause of your pain, whether it’s your lack of activity, your stress level, a condition like arthritis, your mattress, or one of these surprising back pain causes.
Heat or ice?
Use an ice pack for acute injuries, to minimize blood flow and reduce swelling and pain. Alternatively, use heat to loosen muscles and stiff joints and help you feel more mobile. If you’re unsure which method to use, this guide shows which injuries you should treat with heat or ice.
Check for certifications
Any doctor can hang a shingle that says ‘I treat pain.’ Look for doctors who are board-certified in pain medicine or who did a fellowship in something pain-related.
Abnormalities are common
Your back and neck (and often shoulder) pain likely have nothing to do with your abnormal MRI. Studies show that if you perform an MRI on any 100 people, you’ll find an abnormality in about 90 percent of them, even if they’re not experiencing any pain. If you know the source of your pain, find out how to tell if your back pain comes from sciatica symptoms.
Reconsider before asking for a prescription
The latest research shows that taking opioid pain meds (like Vicodin and OxyContin) for chronic pain can change the brain. This damages its ability to feel pleasure, which leads to a craving for more drugs. A few studies found that long-term use can actually lead to increased back or neck pain. Before you get into a situation like this, read up on what doctors should be telling you about pain meds.
Distract to diminish
In mild pain? Try playing a word game or another favorite challenging puzzle. When you distract your brain, you don’t hurt as much. Another activity that helps: watching a funny TV show.
Gone with the wind
Before you praise me for curing your back pain, remember this: It may have gone away on its own. Approximately 90 percent of low-back pain subsides within 12 weeks without medical intervention.
You are what you eat
istock/Eva Katalin Kondoros
If you have chronic pain, consider experimenting with dietary changes. Eliminate dairy for a few weeks, then reintroduce it and see how you feel. Do the same with wheat, red meat, shellfish, citrus, peanuts, caffeine, and alcohol–one at a time. If your pain gets worse when you reintroduce a food, it may be contributing to your problem. Check to see if these 16 anti-inflammatory foods that help reduce pain will work for you.
Choose what’s right for you
If I specialize in prescribing narcotics, giving injections, or doing surgery, that’s probably what I’m going to recommend. But there are dozens of other effective options like massage, physical therapy, chiropractic, acupuncture, spinal cord stimulators, and behavioral therapy. Even if it’s your first time to a massage, here’s what your massage therapist can tell about your body.
You can’t go back on your back
Think twice about having surgery, especially on your back and spine. I’m in a practice with only three doctors, and between us, we have over 1,000 patients who had back surgery who wish they never had. In a Consumer Reports survey, just 60 percent of those who had back surgery were completely or very satisfied with the results. Be sure to read up on these secrets surgeons won’t tell you.