Patients who suffer from chronic pain conditions often experience the most treatment success by adopting a multidisciplinary approach. Chronic pain does not just affect one area of the body. It has wide-reaching effects that can change a person’s life dramatically if effective treatment is not found. Chronic pain is often miserable and can rob people of their personalities, interests, relationships and livelihoods.
People who have chronic pain may need to explore many treatment options and visit more than one doctor in search of a solution. Long-term pain from injuries or illnesses such as arthritis or cancer has a psychological impact for many people as well. They may become depressed, withdrawn, angry, anxious or stressed. For this reason, they may need to explore mental health counseling, stress or anger management or relaxation therapy.
A multidisciplinary approach to the complex problem of chronic pain means that two or more treatment disciplines are adopted. These can include physical therapy, over the counter or prescription medication, psychotherapy, neurology and anesthesiology. Each doctor involved in a patient’s care should work with the others as part of a team to facilitate wellness. Cognitive behavioral therapy can also help patients explore their negative beliefs and attitudes about pain. A coordinated treatment effort is important and can be complimented with holistic practices to optimize success. These can include massage, stretching, yoga, exercise, reflexology and bio/neuro-feedback.
There is a lifestyle component to treating chronic pain that is very important. Doctors advise that patients eat a healthy balanced diet full of fruits, vegetables, lean protein, fiber and healthy fats. Even though a patient may be in pain, a specialist will likely encourage exercise. The old way of thinking was that people with this type of pain should take it easy so they don’t worsen the pain or aggravate the condition. Doctors now believe that exercise can help with the pain and lessen the chances a person will become immobile or otherwise disabled. Getting adequate sleep is also important, and patients are advised not to smoke or drink alcohol excessively.
Patients who have persistent or long-term pain should first speak with the family practitioner that knows their medical history. He or she may be able to assess the situation and make a referral for tests or specialized care. For example, a patient with fibromyalgia will want to choose a specialist who is board-certified in his or her area. It’s important also to know about the doctor’s history in treating the illness in question.