When we first experience pain, we may think it is nothing, or that it will go away. Then, it gets slowly worse. We convince ourselves that it will just last for a little while and that it isn’t worth seeing a doctor about. The pain may grow worse, causing you enough pain throughout your day to make you wince or tell a loved one. Finally, the pain may elevate to such excruciating levels that you can’t function as you used to. Maybe you start taking sick leave or have to take time off altogether as your body keeps you in nearly constant pain. By this point, almost everyone would seek out a doctor. However, the medical word and doctors do not necessarily know the best course of care for you and your body.
Just like you, I was experiencing chronic pain. It would shoot down from my groin through my legs. It was debilitating. Over time, the pain drained my days of the joy and carefree laughter I was so used to. Instead, I was only focusing on how to make it through the day. I saw many doctors, of course. I wanted them to find the cause of the pain and just get rid of it as soon as possible. Every idea they had, I would latch onto and research extensively. It was so draining. They started to prescribe me with heavy anti-depressants. I, however, refused all drugs. I would let them prescribe, but I never actually took any. I knew my nervous system was hyperactive, any drugs would have pushed me to the edge, even more. Deep down, I knew it was all psychosomatic, I felt like I was just trapped.
But, I wasn’t sad. I was just in so much pain. I went from doctor to doctor, and none could fix the pain. Then, came the lowest point — when I said I was sick of it and the doctor placed me in overnight care to prevent self-harm, against my will. That really opened my eyes. Not only did the doctors not know what they were doing, but they were causing me even more pain and trauma, of the emotional kind.
Facts You Need to Know
Here are a few pertinent facts and statistics which help to give a better picture of the chronic pain epidemic throughout the world.
- A lack of adequate pain management training has been an issue for a long time in both U.S. and Canadian medical schools, as well as Europe, according to a National Pain Report (NPR) article.
- For example, a European study noted by the NPR found that medical students only get 12 hours of pain management training during their six-year program. That means only 0.2 percent of the teaching materials are dedicated to chronic pain.
- In fact, 82 percent of those medical schools have no compulsory pain courses.
- The NPR report notes that less than 4 percent of U.S. and Canadian medical schools had required courses in pain and less than 17 percent offered pain electives.
Why Doctors May Not Know Best
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), about 25 million American adults (11.2 percent) struggle with daily pain. This means that there are millions and millions of people in the U.S. who are suffering from pain. Yet, despite such massive numbers, quantifying chronic pain is often an enormous barrier to care.
There are two main problems here. The first is that as the aforementioned data shows, those in the medical field are wildly undertaught about chronic pain methodologies and treatment approaches. Doctors may not know what you’re dealing with, nor how to help it. The second problem is that most often, the chronic pain is subjective or non-verifiable in the eyes of a doctor. I’ve heard of so many other cases where doctors or nurses have dismissed patients for their pain, saying it wasn’t real — even refusing to prescribe medication (which they desperately needed)!
Speaking from my own experience, the doctors and nurses I met with definitely did NOT know how to assess and treat my chronic pain. Their errors ranged from well-meaning but useless to openly disbelieving and demeaning. I urge everyone to rethink how much you want to listen to your doctors about chronic pain. They may prescribe you medicine and charge you for surgeries, but do they really know what they’re doing? Did they study this pain or have experience in successfully treating it? The answer, as shown, is often simply NO.