Common Pain Facts And Myths Tips

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Where can I turn for information on pain?

Resources for Pain: Information and Support

If pain is something you experience on a regular basis, the hope is that you are addressing it and getting the care you need. Support and information are extremely important steps toward understanding your pain and feeling better. Information is power, and having resources to arm yourself with knowledge can help you take a proactive approach to your care and give you peace of mind to help manage the storm when it arises.

Here are just a few pain resources that might be helpful in your quest for knowledge and comfort:

  • - This website offers a consumer library with informative articles about pain-related topics. You can also use it to locate a pain clinic in your area, access message boards, and learn more about various pain associations.
  • - Log on and access links to websites and resources that benefit people living with pain. You may also be interested in the clinical trials they post and the pages geared toward specific groups of interest.
  • The following are web addresses for more pain associations that may offer helpful information and support: (American Pain Foundation); (National Pain Foundation); (The Arthritis Foundation); (National Fibromyalgia Association); (National Headache Foundation).

What are some pain medication myths?

NSAID's: The Most Misunderstood Drugs Around

Non-steriodal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAID's, are the most prescribed medications in the world. Unfortunately, they are also misunderstood, which can create a lot of anxiety and lead to improper use by the people who need them the most. Consider these pain medication myths:

  • "Some NSAID's work better than others." This is not true, as they all contain the same basic ingredients. All are equally effective at treating pain and inflammation.
  • "NSAID's work better than Tylenol." Tylenol, which used to be a prescription medication, works just as well as other NSAID's on the market. The advantage Tylenol seems to have is that the side effects are fewer and less profound than those of some other drugs available
  • "All NSAID's have minimal side effects." Also untrue, as this type of medication is known to potentially damage the stomach and may cause dangerous ulcers. Other less common, but still potential side effects include kidney failure, abdominal pain, diarrhea, swelling, dry mouth, rash, dizziness, headaches, and fatigue
  • "Celebrex is completely safe." This particular medication may cause problems with the heart or blood pressure. If you're unsure of your risk for these conditions, it is best to only take Celebrex for a limited period of time.

Nothing is foolproof, so working with your doctor and doing your homework is the best way to ensure that the medication you take will be safe and effective for you.

Does heavy lifting cause back pain?

Busting the Myth that Heavy Lifting Causes Back Pain

How many times have you heard someone say, "I can't lift that 'cause I have a back back," or "I threw out my back from lifting something"? One of the biggest back pain myths is that lifting heavy objects surely results in back pain. The reality is that up to 90% of adults feel back pain at some point in their lives, regardless of how much lifting they do. It's just as easy to "throw your back out" while lifting a pencil from the floor as it is while lifting a box of copy paper. It all comes down to mechanics.

Body mechanics have to do with how you position your body in order to perform a task. Using incorrect or unsafe mechanics to do things can become a problem over time, as structures which should be doing a certain job get overworked from doing something they shouldn't be doing, and other structures lose their ability to function at their best because they aren't used enough.

Take, for example, the gardener who bends over for most of the day, carries heavy loads, and gets into all sorts of awkward positions. He may dig holes, rake for hours, and load his lawnmower in and out of the truck numerous times with no problem. But then he bends down to pick that errant weed and BAM! Back pain strikes. It wasn't the weed that did it; all the wear and tear on his spine from using poor mechanics for so long set the stage, and that poor weed was the last straw.

Maintaining a neutral back position while reaching, sitting, and standing and incorporating the use of your legs while keeping your back neutral during bending, lifting, and carrying objects are the best ways to protect your back from injury. Proper body mechanics must be learned. A physical therapist or qualified trainer can help you with this.

What is the truth about low back pain?

Myth vs. Fact: What Is the Real Truth About Back Pain?

Who hasn't woken up at some time or another with an aching back, or wondered whether or not that marathon gardening session would come back to haunt them the next day? And don't we all know someone in our family or social circle whose "sciatica has been killing them"? While you may be able to predict when you've done something that is going to result in a stiff, sore back, or potentially flare up an old problem, there are quite a few misconceptions when it comes to identifying and managing back pain. Knowing the truth about back pain will definitely keep you from going nuts!

Consider these facts about pain related to the back:

  • Only 1-3% of back pain is caused by disc problems, despite the misconception that most back pain comes from a "slipped disc."
  • In the case of acute low back pain, a few days of rest may help. But after that, getting your body moving is what is recommended: do activities that will speed healing, pump out the waste products created by inflammation, strengthen your muscles, and prevent re-injury.
  • 6.5 million Americans get treatment for low back pain each day. Getting help to treat your problem early is the best way to lessen the chances of a recurrence.
  • By using good body mechanics and sticking with a sound exercise program incorporating endurance training, core conditioning, and flexibility exercises, you should be able to do just about any activity, even if you have a "bad back."

What is chronic pain?

It's the Pain That Can Wear You Down

While pain is a very subjective phenomenon, the toll it takes on a person's total well-being when it won't go away is all too real. It can affect physical health, emotional stability, job performance, and lifestyle. Understanding chronic pain is difficult, but gaining an understanding is the most important tool one must have in order to deal with chronic pain symptoms and their resolution.

Chronic pain is defined as pain that lasts long after the initial injury is resolved. Sometimes it can even occur without a specific cause. Complex diseases and some chronic conditions can cause actual changes in the brain and nervous system, and subsequently in other parts of your body directly affected by those nerves. These physiological changes alter the way pain signals are sent and received, which can create a syndrome whereby discomfort and dysfunction become continuous or magnified. Add to that an emotional component, where a person's past experiences with pain factor into how their nervous system responds to painful stimuli, and you've got a situation that can be difficult to live with.

Other conditions of daily life are not only related to, but are also affected by, chronic pain. These include mental health, depression, anxiety, insomnia, and fatigue.

Approximately 75 million Americans are living with chronic pain, the majority having to make lifestyle changes to accommodate for it. The bottom line is, pain is real. How profoundly it affects you depends on how your nervous system processes information associated with painful stimuli. Getting help from specialists to manage and deal with chronic pain will keep your symptoms from defining you and running your life.

Is psychological pain real?

All In the Head

Pain involves psychological and physical components. Some pain may lack an obvious cause. When pain is not caused by a physical problem, a mental factor such as stress, anxiety, depression, or trauma may be the cause. For example, conditions such as panic disorders and depression are medically-proven chest pain causes. Psychologically-caused pain will normally exhibit these symptoms:

  • Headaches, chest pain, muscle pains, back pain, and stomach pains
  • Depression, stress, or other psychological problems
  • No obvious cause of pain
If you are experiencing unexplained chest pain or pain in another region, it may be time to seek help from a psychologist or other medical specialist. If your pain is psychological, a doctor may be able to prescribe medication for your problem.

Does gender affect pain?

Gender and Pain

The stereotype is that men have higher tolerance for pain than women. Gender does, in fact, establish certain traits; however, studies show that women prepare for pain better than men, not the other way around.

Women report and complain about pain more often than their male counterparts, but women also tend to experience more severe levels of pain during biological tasks of menstruation, labor, and in childbirth. Women utilize better coping strategies to handle pain, and may be better prepared because of a combination of hormones and natural readiness which stems from their biological cycle.

Many factors affect pain, and it is important that patients understand how pain operates in their bodies. If you are experiencing gender-specific pain, or would like more pain information about the effects gender may have on your health, consult a physician for additional information.

Can weather affect my health condition?

Weather and Pain

Myth has often linked weather changes in certain medical conditions. Some patients claim to be natural weather radars, though the effectiveness of this “medically-based” forecast method has never been tested. However, medical research has established a consistent link between weather changes and chronic pain. As barometric pressure rises and falls, certain factors tend to worsen health conditions by intensifying aches and pains. As humidity decreases, water in the environment becomes less accessible, causing an increased potential for migraine headaches.

Understanding chronic pain is a very extensive process. Pain will always vary in each patient, regardless of what condition is being experienced. Doctors agree that weather is an important factor in this process. If you think you are showing signs of chronic pain related to weather, keep a journal to find a possible relationship between weather patterns and your health. It could be as simple checking off the days you have a headache and recording the temperature and humidity on a calendar, or more in-depth, with descriptions of the weather and what pain you felt that day. Bring this to your next doctor's visit and he or she will help you better understand your chronic pain. Use the free clinician finder to locate a clinician in your area.

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Christina Chan