Something All Doctors Should Know
If you’re a diabetic who needs insulin to regulate your blood sugar your doctor would never suddenly tell you that you no longer need insulin despite there being no change in your medical condition. You would not suddenly be refused your medication, given no other treatment options and be told that you just need to learn to live with your disease. Not allowing a patient to manage their diabetes would cause other health complications and would lower their life expectancy. It’s clearly irresponsible and immoral to refuse to treat someone with a serious health condition.
However this exact scenario happens time and time again to people living with chronic pain. Chronic pain can be caused by a wide variety of health problems some of which are easier to treat than others. If you are one of the unlucky people who lives with pain that can’t be fixed surgically, or with other less invasive procedures, then medication may be your only pain management option.
“I was given no explanation and also not given any other treatment options.”
As someone living with chronic pain due to a variety of health problems I have had the confusing and frustrating experience of suddenly being told I would no longer be prescribed medication for my pain and just needed to deal with it on my own. To me it felt like this decision by my doctor came out of nowhere and I was given no explanation and also not given any other treatment options. I had been maintaining my full time job and never abused or sold my medication. I have no history of addiction.
With no way to control my pain my pain started to control my life. I lost my job and I lost all desire to be alive. I could no longer have a social life since I could barely leave my home. For about two months I woke up every morning wanting to scream and cry and just wished I didn’t feel anything. The only way for me to keep my pain at a low enough level that I didn’t constantly wish I was dead was by laying on my back on a heating pad for about 40-50% of the day, and doing gentle stretching and exercise in between resting.
When I was on medication I still had pain and physical limitations but it helped enough for me to do my job and keep me happy with my life. Not having a job is very unsatisfying. Spending most of your time trying to avoid intense flare ups of pain is not enjoyable.
“Imagine feeling like you are walking on razor blades with every step you take”
I know I’m not the only one with this problem. In an online support group I use I see the same story over and over again from different people. One member said had he known his doctor was going to refuse to prescribe him medication anymore he would have saved up enough of what he had left to kill himself with it. I see so many people say the only reason they don’t kill themselves is for the sake of their families. To say chronic pain isn’t a serious medical condition that requires treatment is ignorant and callous. Imagine feeling like you are walking on razor blades with every step you take. Imagine the sensation of your skin being on fire just from being touched lightly. Imagine waking up everyday feeling like you have been hit by a car and all your bones and muscles are bruised. It’s exhausting to live this way. It’s exhausting to be awake most of the night crying. But this is how some people are forced to live.
“not only is it impossible to just ignore pain, it also leads to poor concentration”
When doctors tell people to just get used to living in pain they are ignoring how the human body and brain works. Pain is the signal your body sends to your brain when there is something wrong. If you touch a hot stove or step on a nail your body sends a very fast signal of pain to let you know you have been injured and get you to protect yourself from being further injured. Because this is such an important part of our survival the brain processes pain first before any other signals. If you have ever gotten burned by something hot you immediately recoil before you have time to think “I should probably move my hand”. It’s involuntary because it needs to be involuntary. And while chronic pain is not associated with these types of reflexes the brain is still processing these signals which takes attention away from other sensations. So not only is it impossible to just ignore pain, it also leads to poor concentration because the brain can only process so much at one.
“about 20% of people in the USA live with chronic pain”
According to the CDC about 20% of people in the USA live with chronic pain. Not providing adequate options for pain management not only lowers a person’s quality of life, it also leads to higher rates of disability. Personally I have since gone back on pain medication and with the help of other therapies I have been able to significantly improve the quality of my life. However it took about seven years of my life to get back on pain medication. That’s a long time to suffer needlessly. I hope some day that people with chronic pain will no longer have to go though this insane treatment.