Why Does It Still Hurt?
Posted 6/22/2016 by UHBlog
Believe it or not, pain is normally a good thing.
“Pain is usually a defensive mechanism,” says pain medicine specialist Sami Moufawad, MD. “If you cut your skin or break a bone, you have pain to draw your attention to the problem that needs attention. That is called acute pain and it serves a purpose. Chronic pain is mild to severe pain that continues beyond that purpose, typically lasting more than six months. Sometimes it is just a nuisance or an annoyance, but at the other end of the scale, it can interfere with all aspects of a person’s life activities, including work and school.”
According to Dr. Moufawad, any area of the body can be subject to chronic pain, but the joints are the most vulnerable – often due to arthritis. Chronic pain can also result from nerve damage – particularly neuropathy related to diabetes – and other conditions.
Typically, the first response to pain is to reach for the bottle of ibuprofen or acetaminophen, but long-term use of any medication may have health risks. Besides, other options may be available – and better – to deal with chronic pain.
“If you experience persistent pain, the best first step is to call your doctor,” Dr. Moufawad says. “Everybody at some point probably will have pain that lasts a couple weeks. If it goes beyond that, check with your doctor. It’s usually easier to treat acute pain before it becomes chronic. Your doctor can advise you on the best way to deal with it – or may refer you to a pain management specialist who will have a variety of options that are appropriate for your specific problem.”
Medication – whether it’s over-the-counter or prescription – is a last resort for long-term pain, Dr. Moufawad says. Some pain medications, like opioids can be addicting and have side effects.
“Pain management doctors try to control the pain in ways other than just prescribing medication,” he says. “And if we do suggest medication, we choose the lowest dose for the shortest period of time possible.”
There are a number of other ways to manage chronic pain, Dr. Moufawad says, including:
- Physical therapy
- Nerve blocks
- Steroid and other injections
- Radiofrequency ablation
- Spinal adjustment
- Yoga and other relaxation therapies
“Everybody is different, so there is no one single best way to treat chronic pain,” he says. “We start with a modality that we think will work best. If it doesn’t, we move on to another modality. Sometimes we can eliminate chronic pain. Sometimes we can only manage it as best as possible.”
Sami Moufawad, MD is a pain medicine specialist at University Hospitals. You can request an appointment with Dr. Moufawad or any University Hospitals doctor online.