Fact: Even Mild Chronic Pain Should Be Checked by a Doctor continued...
However, you need to get pain evaluated, even if it's mild. First, it could be the sign of an underlying disease or health problem that needs treatment. Second, treating pain promptly can sometimes prevent it from turning into hard-to-treat chronic pain.
Beyond that, it's always important to take pain seriously in its own right. Chronic pain is insidious. It sneaks up on people, worsening slowly and imperceptibly.
Without realizing it, you might develop unhealthy ways of coping with it. That might include using over-the-counter painkillers for a long time or at high doses, which can have serious risks. People with chronic pain are also at higher risk of relying on alcohol or other substances to numb their pain.
Over time, chronic pain can also lead to sleep deprivation, social isolation, depression, and other problems that can affect your relationships at home and at work.
Myth: Bed Rest Is Usually the Best Cure for Pain
The old medical advice for people with some types of chronic pain -- such as back pain -- was to rest in bed. But that's not the case anymore.
"Now we know that for almost all types of chronic pain conditions, not just spinal pain, [prolonged] bed rest is almost never helpful," Cohen says. "In some cases it will actually worsen the prognosis."
It turns out that for most causes of pain, keeping up your normal schedule -- including your physical activity -- will help you get better faster.
Of course, there are some situations where rest is important -- especially for a day or two after an acute injury. So always follow your doctor's advice.
Myth: Increased Pain Is Inevitable as We Age
Pain experts say there is one particularly damaging myth about chronic pain. Too many people think that pain is just a sign of aging and that there's not much to be done about it.
"I think unfortunately too many doctors believe this," Cohen says. "They see an older patient with pain and don't think anything of it."
It's unquestionably true that our odds of developing a painful condition, such as arthritis, are higher as we age. But those conditions can be treated and the pain can be well-controlled. So no matter what your age, never settle for chronic pain.