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22 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.

Sure, I 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 health 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. Use heat to loosen muscles and stiff joints and help you feel more mobile.

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.

Your back and neck (and often shoulder) pain likely have little or 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 per cent of them, even if they’re not experiencing any back or neck pain.

Reconsider before asking for a prescription

The latest research shows that taking opioid pain meds (like OxyContin) for chronic pain can change the brain, damaging its ability to feel pleasure and leading to a craving for more drugs. A few studies found that long-term use can actually lead to increased back or neck pain.

In mild pain? Play word games or another favourite challenging puzzle

When you distract your brain, you don’t hurt as much. Another activity that helps: watching a funny TV show.

Before you praise me for curing your back pain, remember this

It may have gone away on its own. Approximately 90 per cent of low-back pain subsides within 12 weeks without medical intervention.

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 add back a food, then food allergies may be contributing to your problem.

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 health treatment options like massage, physical therapy, chiropractic, acupuncture, spinal cord stimulators, and behavioural therapy.

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 health treatment options like massage, physical therapy, chiropractic, acupuncture, spinal cord stimulators, and behavioural therapy.

Pain is mental too

So you may want to explore psychotherapy, cognitive behavioural therapy, meditation, and even self-hypnosis.

Your pain will improve with the right kind of exercise

And it will probably feel worse if you won’t get a good night’s sleep.

Pain medications are known for causing severe constipation

Always ask about a stool softener, or try one of these constipation home remedies.

 

Before you come to me, try taking Tylenol or Advil for a few days

Simple, but it works.

Surgeons and orthopedic doctors who prescribe narcotics after surgery tend to under-dose

That’s because they’re worried about creating an addiction. If you’re still in pain after a procedure, it’s OK to ask for more.

Diagnosed with spinal stenosis?

If you’ve been diagnosed with spinal stenosis, a narrowing of the spinal canal, and your doctor says you could be paralyzed if you don’t have surgery, find another doctor. Studies have shown that’s not true, and surgery should be a last resort only after you’ve tried other options.

Try injections for carpal tunnel

Injections for carpal tunnel syndrome have the highest success rate of any procedure I do, hands down. It should definitely be something you try before you resort to surgery.

Please don’t take it personally when I ask you to take a drug test

We want to believe that you’re not addicted, but research shows 18 to 41 per cent of patients who take narcotic pain relievers are abusing them, and I don’t want to be responsible.

Chances are, you’re never going to be 100 per cent pain-free

Especially if you’re experiencing chronic back or knee pain. In many cases, we consider your treatment a success if we get rid of 50 per cent of your pain and help you to be more functional.

Steroid injections are now a top treatment for back pain

But critics say there is little evidence of any long-term benefit compared to their risks, especially for back pain that doesn’t radiate down the legs.

We’re incentivized to find ways to treat you

Pain doctors are paid about five to 10 times more for doing a procedure on you than for counselling you about how to prevent pain and injury. Nerve blocks and injections are very lucrative, especially if you do them assembly-line-style all day long.

Get out of bed!

For every day you’re lying there, you lose 1 to 3 per cent of your muscle strength, and then you start to feel stiff simply because you’re not moving. Your pain will get better faster if you stay active.