Studies have shown that 11% of Americans live with a chronic pain condition. Given that chronic pain is apparently rather common, it is rather surprising that there continues to be a number of misconceptions about the condition, who it affects, and how it should be dealt with.
So, let’s try and combat the misconceptions once and for all. Below are three beliefs that many people hold about chronic pain— beliefs that, unfortunately, aren’t actually correct.
BELIEF: People with Chronic Pain Just Want Medication
This misconception has been fuelled by TV shows and movies, which depict scenes where a patient fakes chronic pain in order to receive high-strength drugs. This, however, is not reflective of reality. Many sufferers prefer not to use any prescribed drugs at all, and will instead use treatments such as yoga and massage to cope with the issues they experience daily.
BELIEF: Chronic Pain Only Affects Elderly People
Admittedly, chronic pain is more common in elderly people. This is because elderly people are more likely to suffer from chronic conditions such as arthritis, and will need to access senior physical therapy and other non-medicated treatments to cope with this. However, that is not to say that all chronic pain patients are elderly— it is a condition that knows no borders or age limits and affects people across all age ranges.
BELIEF: Chronic Pain Is Severe
When people hear the term “chronic pain”, they imagine a pain that is extremely severe. This is usually due to a misunderstanding of the term “chronic”. Chronic actually just means long-term; its direct opposite is “acute”— and neither is an indicator of the severity of the pain. It can be mild, moderate, severe, and everything in between; the only key factor it needs to be considered “chronic pain” is that it has lasted over three months, and is not expected to resolve in the next six months.
BELIEF: Chronic Pain Is Non-Stop
Many people believe that if someone suffers from chronic pain, this must mean they are always in pain. While there are some conditions where this is undoubtedly true, for most sufferers, the issue is intermittent. People with chronic pain tend to have good days and bad days. On the good days, they may appear to be completely pain-free; on bad days, they may not be able to leave their bed. Either way, the level of pain is not consistent throughout their lives; it has peaks and valleys that the person with the pain has to learn to deal with.
BELIEF: Chronic Pain Cannot be Cured
Some forms of chronic pain cannot be cured, but others can. For example, if someone has a severe back problem, they can be diagnosed with chronic pain. However, if they then have surgery, the issue can be fixed, and their back will return to a strong and healthy state. While it tends to mean ongoing, that doesn’t mean there aren’t treatments available that can improve the outcome for patients.
The Pain Is Real
Chronic pain is real and affects so many people on a daily basis. If we can all learn the realities of it, perhaps we can better understand our loved ones who experience it.
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