Living with Chronic Pain
Chronic Pain Is Often Invisible
Because chronic pain often doesn’t show any visible symptoms, friends, colleagues or even family often have a difficult time understanding the impact that chronic pain has on an individual’s life. Also, because the cause of chronic pain is sometimes difficult to diagnose, physicians may not take an individual’s pain levels seriously.
Various reasons for disbelief
Medical students only receive a few hours of training in pain management. This does not provide a sufficient understanding of the experiences of individuals with chronic pain. Unfortunately, this can lead to health care providers dismissing an individual’s pain if an identifiable cause is not apparent. Certain factors may play into the disbelief of an individual’s chronic pain, such as their young age or healthy appearance. Some health care providers may dismiss individuals with chronic pain as drug-seekers or individuals with a mental illness.
The effect of skepticism
Not only do individuals with chronic pain cope with physical symptoms on a daily basis, they often have to deal with skepticism from others, especially if their chronic pain is “invisible.” This can lead to doubting oneself, low self-esteem, isolation and depression. It is important for individuals with chronic pain to find support, whether among trusted family and friends, in a support group or with a medical professional.
Doctors who specialize in chronic pain
An individual’s chronic pain should be acknowledged and validated during a visit to a health care provider. Having an open dialogue about chronic pain with a health care provider builds trust. Asking for a referral to a health care provider who is specially trained in pain management, such as a physiatrist (physical medicine and rehabilitation physician) or an anesthesiologist, is a good first step in receiving a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.