When you are suffering in pain, it can be tough just to wake up in the morning. The pain just won’t go away. When that pain lasts for months or years, you can start calling that chronic pain. This type of pain is different because it takes a very long time to go away, or doesn’t leave you at all. When chronic pain invades your life, you need help.
Enter the chronic pain team at www.discovermagazine.com. There is no doctor, nurse, or therapist that can help manage your pain alone. So let’s take a look at who these important people are and the job they can do to help you and your pain: The Physician This person is the quarterback of your pain team. He or she will call all the shots and set you up with a plan of care. Physicians involved in pain management are usually physiatrists.
No, not podiatrists. Physiatrists. No, I didn’t write psychiatrists…PHYSIATRISTS! They are sort of like physical therapists, but they are physicians. They have a deep understanding of the body’s musculoskeletal system, its structure, and function. They can prescribe medication, perform injections, and refer you to other practitioners when needed. The Nurse The nurse will help administer the plan created by the doctor. They do a lot of dirty work. Kind of like when I worked in a hospital, the doctor came in, looked over the chart, saw the patient, then wrote a string of orders that the nurse then carried out to their completion. The nurse will likely be your contact person day-to-day in your pain relief journey.
The Psychologist Often overlooked, but gaining notoriety for their value on the team is the psychologist. More and more pain centers are staffed with psychologists and psychotherapists (anyone knows the difference? Please tell me!). Chronic pain wears down the body as well as the mind. The pain can make you angry, sad, depressed, and put a strain on all your friend and family relations. The psychologist will help you deal with all of those aspects to keep your emotional self healthy as you recover from chronic pain.
Check out Pain-Free Podcast #2 with Beth Darnall, Ph.D. to learn more about the psychologist’s role on the team, and about the growing opioid problem in the USA. The Physical Therapist The most important member of the team….I’m kidding here, just a little biased! Seriously though, the physical therapist will teach you the proper way to move. More importantly, they will teach you to get over the fear of movement. For example, fibromyalgia is a common chronic pain condition. Research shows that the best treatment is exercise. Because of the pain, these patients find it difficult to exercise and get stuck in the pain cycle.
The therapist can help lead you out of pain through graded exercises in easy steps that your body can handle. It is part art, part science, with lots of communication between therapist and patient during the whole process. Trust your physical therapist! The Pharmacist Hopefully, you won’t use this person’s services too often…or, use them less and less as time goes on. The pharmacist will obviously supply you with your pain-relieving, mood-elevating medications, looking out for side effects and drug interactions all along the way.
Pharmacists know a lot about many health conditions, medications and over the counter products, so don’t be afraid to ask them. Your Family and Friends You need a real live social network to help support you, pick you up when you’re down, and give you hope when you think you have none left. Everybody has people in their life that care for them and want nothing but to see them get out of chronic pain. Use your family and friends to talk to for support and to socialize. These people understand the best of all! Good luck on your chronic pain journey, and don’t go it alone!