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Too Many People Ignore Chronic Pain

Pain Medication, Physical Therapy, Better Coping Skills All Help Ease Pain

Treatment Works

Treatment does offer relief, says Cowan. "We have to learn to live with the pain, manage it, apply better coping skills, pace ourselves, know our abilities. The big message is, realize that there are things you may not be able to do. But don't dwell on that, focus on what you can do."

Her survey showed the positive effects of getting treatment:

  • 81% of people seeing a doctor for pain report being very satisfied.
  • 86% of people taking prescription pain medication are also using alternatives, like physical therapy, massage, and meditation.

However:

  • 56% of those taking pain medications worry about side effects.
  • 52% report drowsiness and 41% say they have had nausea from pain medications.

"Pain is not simple," says Cowan. "Finding the right doctor can be difficult. Doctors and nurses are not really trained in pain management. They're trained in diagnosis and treatment of disease, but not in managing pain. And because it's complex, treating pain takes a team approach, with the patient playing an active role."

Start with your primary care doctor, she advises. "You have to start at the beginning, rule out certain causes. You may have to see a few specialists. Even then, there aren't always clear answers."

The bottom line: If you have pain, taking an active role will help bring relief, Cowan says. "When you do that, you can start living again."

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