A recent survey by the American Osteopathic Association (AOA) polled Washington residents and found nearly 85 percent said they or someone they care for have experienced pain in the last 30 days. While alarming, the survey results aren’t surprising. In fact, nationally more than 76 million Americans live with pain every day, affecting more Americans than cancer, diabetes and heart disease combined.
Common Misconceptions About Pain
Can Prevent Effective Treatment
With nearly half of the Washington survey respondents mistakenly believing that pain is just part of life or part of the aging process, there is a clear need to dispel the common misperceptions associated with pain. By raising awareness about the safe and effective treatment options available to help those living with pain, I’m working with the AOA to dispel the most common myths associated with pain and empower people to take action and get the help they need.
Myth: Pain is just part of life
Too many people suffer from pain in silence believing it is just part of their daily life. In fact, more than half of Washington residents said they would not visit a medical professional for their chronic pain. In order to find relief, it’s important to speak with your physician about what you are experiencing right away. Ignoring or undertreating pain can actually lead to more pain, creating a debilitating cycle. Once you start an open discussion with your physician, you can work together to develop a treatment plan that will help you get back to living a more active life with less pain.
Myth: My pain only affects me
Chronic pain is a significant public health issue. While the negative impact of living with pain starts with the individual, it also affects the entire family unit. For example, when pain keeps parents from picking up their small children or fully participating in daily family life, everyone feels the impact. When seeking treatment for pain, it’s important to engage members of your family and even bring them with you to help describe how your pain is impacting daily life at home. With open communication, you can work together with your physician to develop a treatment plan that takes the whole family into account.
Myth: Medication is the only option to treat my pain
With more than four out of 10 Washingtonians viewing prescription pain relief medications as expensive, easily addictive and risky to mix with other medications, it’s important to take an integrated approach to treating pain. There is no “one size fits all” treatment for pain. Just as chronic pain comes in many forms and affects many different parts of the body, there is a wide range of treatment options available, ranging from exercise to physical therapy and other hands-on treatments. Pain medication may only be one part of the overall treatment approach you develop with your physician.
Myth: Pain is a sign of weakness
Rather than viewing pain as a sign of weakness, the AOA encourages those living with pain to find ways to describe how they feel and engage in an open discussion with their physician. Effective treatment requires an individualized pain management program that can only be developed through open patient and physician collaboration.
Visit the AOA website (www.osteopathic.org/pain) to take the Living with Pain Quiz and complete the Talking to Your Physician About Pain Assessment Tool/Patient Journal to help you describe and track your pain.
To help the one-quarter of Washington residents who reported that they have not found a physician to manage their pain, the AOA is advocating for better access to treatment in the state and encouraging patients to seek help from an osteopathic physician (DO) or an MD.
Dr. Daniel E. Wolf, DO is an AOA board-certified psychiatrist in private practice in Seattle. He served as president of the Washington Osteopathic Medical Association (WOMA). Prior to entering private practice, he spent 13 years providing medication management and psychotherapy to children, teens and adults as part of the Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound. Dr. Wolf served as a Lieutenant Commander in the U.S. Navy as a staff psychiatrist and addiction specialist. For more information, please visit www.drdanwolf.com
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