Pain, Pain, Go Away
A little pain is normal. In fact, pain is a good thing. Pain is the body’s self-preservation mechanism. Issues arise when pain levels go beyond what is normally experienced. There are 3 simple bits of advice that can make treatment and talking to the doctor so much easier.
Types of pain
Acute pain is often minor, comes on suddenly, but doesn’t last very long. Rarely does acute pain become chronic. Chronic pain is much more severe. Chronic pain signals medical problems and can be very difficult to treat. This is not to say acute pain should be taken lightly. Both acute and chronic pain can be strenuous.
Pain = survival
Pain is a survival mechanism. Pain is the brain’s way of telling the body there is a threat. Pain stems from the brain, not the body. Because pain is subjective to the individual, tissue or nerve damage cannot be accurately measured by pain levels. Sometimes in extreme instances, such as a broken leg or shark bite, there may not be any pain at all. The body kicks into overdrive and the brain will shut off pain receptors until the threat has passed. A child can fall off a bike and howl like the world is coming to an end. There may be no scrapes, but the child will still cry. Pain levels and the severity of the injury are not always in sync.
When pain becomes an issue
Issues arise when not enough or too much pain is felt. Hereditary sensory and autonomic neuropathy and hereditary sensory neuropathy are medical conditions that inhibit sensation. Congenital insensitivity to pain, also known as congenital analgesia, is a more severe medical condition in which the patient cannot physically or mentally feel pain.
Too little pain
Anything that inhibits or prevents the sensation of pain puts the body at risk of serious and potential repeat injury. The patient is also at a higher risk of disease as preventative symptoms will go unnoticed. Children and those with mental health conditions are the most at risk. Indifference to pain is also an issue. The patient may be aware of the stimulus and even feel the pain, but for some reason, cannot adequately respond. There may be no movement or withdrawing from the stimuli, only observation.
Too much pain
Feeling too much pain becomes a harder condition to treat. Doctors have a general feel for the type of pain that should accompany a medical condition. When the pain levels go beyond the norm, treatment becomes harder. When any part of the pain is identified as psychological, treatment becomes more complicated. Whatever the reason, feeling too much pain is not a good thing and requires medical intervention.
How to talk to your doctor
There are no rules on how to speak to a doctor about pain. But there are some ways to make the conversation easier. Below are 3 bits of advice that can make the appointment much easier for both the physician and the patient.
Tip 1: Be honest
A doctor cannot help without being aware of the issue. Trying to just be tough may make the problem worse. Admitting pain does not equal weakness. In fact, the pain may reveal a more serious underlying problem. Take time, and don’t feel rushed. Just communicate the information in whatever way possible.
Tip 2: Keep a log
Keeping a symptom log can help the doctor determine if the pain is acute or chronic. A pain journal can also help narrow down a method of treatment. For those that become nervous or shy in a doctor’s office, a symptom log is a great conversation starter.
Tip 3: Self-awareness
Pain is subjective, and everyone reacts differently. Athletes often can tolerate a high amount of muscle soreness that would leave the average gym-goer on the couch. Physical fitness and pain tolerance varies per individual. While some injuries are more severe than others, being in constant discomfort is not healthy. Only the individual experiencing the discomfort can know what is normal or tolerable and what is not. If there is aching or discomfort, make an appointment to see a medical professional.
Not all pain is created equal
Pain is subjective but should also not be ignored. While not every injury requires a rush to the emergency room, self-awareness can help determine what is normal and what is not. A symptom log can help in talking to a pain specialist. Honesty is vital when dealing with pain management. Individuals struggling with chronic pain should seek treatment from a healthcare provider.