I hurt. I was in a vehicle collision that left my car totaled and my insurance premiums sky-high, and to top it all off, I hurt terribly and constantly. And the worst part was that I didn’t know what to do.
Unfortunately, because of various fears regarding chronic pain, I delayed seeking help and forced myself to endure my condition for longer than necessary. If you suspect that you might be suffering from chronic pain, you might be worried about the processes of diagnosis and treatment. Hopefully, you can learn from my experience and find help sooner.
Everything I Did Wrong
When my pain first developed, I brushed it off. I had so many other things to worry about: filing and following my insurance claim and buying a new car in addition to everyday concerns like going to work and helping my kids with homework. It took me more than a year to admit to myself that I was suffering, and then I still delayed a few months before I approached my doctor with my chronic pain.
When I finally did visit my doctor, I was embarrassed. I hated admitting that I had a problem that I couldn’t fix, and I was ashamed that it had taken me so long after the collision to seek medical help. As a result, I downplayed my symptoms, acting like the pain wasn’t as severe as it was, pretending that I wasn’t losing sleep or skipping the gym or even avoiding social events because of my pain. My doctor prescribed a treatment plan — and I ignored it.
Instead, I tried to solve my problem myself. I used the internet as a guide for at-home treatments, like ice and stretching. I took walks. It didn’t help — because I couldn’t keep it up. When everything hurt no matter what I did, I was disinclined to do even those things I thought would make me feel better.
The reason I took this path instead of following my doctor’s treatment plan is that I didn’t understand how that plan could work. It was composed of treatments like counseling and bloodwork, which I didn’t expect to have a bearing on my pain. However, after more months of my own self-inflicted treatment failing to impact my pain positively, I once again got fed-up, and I scheduled another visit to my doctor.
This time, I told the full story of my pain — of when it started, how intense it gets and other symptoms like nausea and anxiety that have also developed. My doctor prescribed a similar treatment plan, and I followed it to the letter — even the unexpected treatments in which I once had little faith. I checked into a pain center near me, and I didn’t question their techniques. And here’s the thing: The pain got more manageable.
What You Should Do Instead
The key things I did wrong are as follows:
- I delayed seeking treatment.
- I didn’t tell the truth about my pain and other symptoms.
- I tried to resolve my pain myself, without professional guidance or intervention.
- I didn’t believe “alternative” pain management and treatment would work.
Thus, if you want to learn from my mistakes, here are the key things you need to do to improve your life with chronic pain:
Talk to a doctor immediately. Chronic pain can increase over time, so the longer it takes you to seek medical intervention, the more intense your pain might become. Worse, by delaying, you could be permitting the underlying condition to deteriorate, making recovery more difficult. Even if you have delayed up to now, you should talk to your doctor as soon as possible. Call them now.
Be clear in communicating your pain. We have been taught that pain is a weakness, and as a result, we try to mask or downplay our pain. You cannot do this with your doctor. By hiding the extent of your symptoms, your doctor might not understand the true nature of your problem, meaning you won’t get the treatment you need. You should prepare a list of adjectives to describe your pain before your appointment, so you have something concrete to tell your doctor about your condition.
Expect a long diagnosis process. Pain is a complex issue — one that modern medicine isn’t well-equipped to understand. Because of the increase in awareness regarding chronic pain, new diagnostic tests are in development, but it’s likely you won’t have access to any quick-and-easy diagnostics. Instead, your doctor will likely request a variety of tests, from the psychological to all sorts of imaging. The cause of chronic pain is most often found through elimination of common issues, so expect this process to take a while.
Be open to various forms of treatment. Painkilling drugs work, but they aren’t the only solution. Often, chronic pain sufferers participate in physical therapy, counseling, surgery and other treatment methods — and they can work as well or better than drugs. You should keep an open mind if you want your pain to abate.
I will be the first to admit that chronic pain is something you can learn to live with — even if it makes you want to die. However, trying to live with chronic pain is a fool’s errand. By avoiding common mistakes other chronic pain sufferers (like me) have gone through, you can overcome your pain sooner and go back to a life worth living.