Understanding Chronic Pain

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Chronic pain doesn’t have to be a part of our holiday experiences.

Some of you know that I’ve had chronic hip pain since May. I’ve spoken to my doctor several times about it. He attributes it to my trip to Virginia last Spring when I was trapped in a teeny tiny United Airlines seat for hours on end. If you remember that story, you will know why I can really blame my pain on the Chicago Cubs.

Clearly, it’s their fault.

The doctor said it was inflammation and prescribed anti-inflammatory drugs. Meh. Those make me sick. And honestly? I’d rather not treat the symptom. I’d rather know what the real problem is.

So when I was invited to a webinar about chronic pain, I was certainly intrigued. I can relate to this one. It was sponsored by the American Osteopathic Association. We had the opportunity to hear Dr. Jennifer Caudle talk about chronic pain.

What is Chronic Pain?

Here are some interesting points that I did not know previously:

  • Chronic pain is pain experienced for more than three months.
  • Chronic pain impacts more Americans than cancer, diabetes and heart disease COMBINED.
  • More than 76 million Americans live with pain every day
  • When pain is not properly managed, it’s difficult to live productively – just one of the reasons why addressing chronic pain is so important
  • Pain is caused by medical conditions (arthritis, muscle aches and pains, etc) as well as injury or trauma

One really interesting tidbit was that the folks they surveyed would rather take down holiday decorations by themselves, shovel snow on their own for an hour, or wait in line to return or exchange gifts on the day after Christmas rather than go to the doctor!

Pain for the holidays?

One of the things that Dr. Caudle stressed was that pain does not have to prevent you from enjoying the holidays. Over and over again she commented on this being a quality of life issue and urging us to seek out help. Managing your pain is not a “one size fits all diagnosis”.

Wondering if you should get some help for the pain you have? You can take a number of pain quizzes and inventories here.

Consider a D.O.

I appreciated the Q&A session with Dr Caudle. I even got to tell my story about sitting on the tarmac. Obviously, she couldn’t diagnose me over the phone, but she did recommend seeking out a DO (Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine). I had been thinking about that very thing for a few months.

Here’s how Dr. Caudle explained the difference between a DO and an MD:

There are two types of licensed physicians – MDs (medical doctors) and DOs (doctors of osteopathic medicine). We both do four years of medical school, attend residency programs and have to take board certification tests. Our training is similar, but DOs believe in a comprehensive approach to the patient. We look at the entire patient to make a diagnosis and treatment, and we are also trained to use our hands. A DO could be a great option if your MD hasn’t been effective. You want to look for a DO who does manipulation (hands-on treatment) in their office. It’s an added benefit of being treated right when you go to the office.

To be honest, I would rather take down the Christmas decorations by myself than go to the doctor. But, I am thinking it’s probably better that I go get a second opinion. Ya think?

Have you ever seen a DO?

Dis­clo­sure: This post is part of a spon­sored cam­paign for the American Osteopathic Association and The Moth­er­hood. All facts, statistics, and medical data above are provided by the American Osteopathic Association. All opin­ions are my own.

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  1. i *have* seen a DO. several years ago i ended up in front of one for urgent care due to a sinus infection that was causing vertigo. the end result – likely same course of action as an MD. but he was the NICEST doctor i have ever been to and also, coincidentally???, the HOTTEST. is that terrible to add to a civilized discussion? i only knew that he was a DO after the fact because i looked him up because he was so terribly attractive i wanted to know his specialty. yes, really.

    anyhow, even though it was urgent care i did not feel rushed, could discuss everything with him, and i felt like he really cared about the outcome. this was at KP santa clara hospital so you really can find a DO anywhere.

  2. My primary dr. was a DO for years. He delivered 2 of 3 children. I was confident in his abilities and was sad when he retired. Like any dr, one must be able to connect well and others recommendations can be very helpful.

  3. My primary care physician is a DO. I’m not sure how different it would be with an MD, but I like her. There are no circumstances where I’d prefer to stand in line to exchange gifts over going to a doc and dumping my pain…I’m just not very stoic.

  4. I also have been to a DO – after one ENT telling me my relentless and brutal sinus headaches were ‘stress’ and another doctor just prescribing yet more pain pills I went to the one my parents saw who had resolved some of their more perplexing difficulties – and he took me off everything and gave me two natural supplements with no side effects other than being anti-cancer – and it changed my life!

    Hmmm, I should take the time to find one here – my gp is a stranger to me!

    Hope you find some solution for your hip – my poor friend is suffering so terribly from arthritis is practically debilitating and breaks my heart. Chronic pain sucks

  5. We’ve had great success with physiotherapy. Often joint pain is related to muscle issues, and a good physiotherapist can do wonders in pain relief and give you exercises to reduce chances of it recurring.

    Another point: It’s my impression that a physio visit is less expensive than DO and MD visits, but that would depend on where you live.

    I hope you will soon be pain-free!

  6. I started have pain four years ago when I was only 24 years old. I was seeing an MD at the time who never wanted to address the pain I was having. Finally I switched to a DO, she had probably only been out of school a few years and I LOVED her! She was the only doctor that every took the time to deal with each one of my symptoms and tried to help me as much as she could. She even sent me to a pain management doctor and when I came back in tears because of the way he treated me, she suggested a medication that the PM doctor didn’t and it helped significantly. She also did manipulations at every visit and was just wonderful. Then she moved and I ended up seeing the NP in the practice and I didn’t like her. Now, I’m back to seeing a DO, who actually delivered my husband 33 years ago {talk about making him feel old lol}. As much as I like him, he does take time to listen to each concern, but I feel like the appointments are rushed and can’t address each concern and with my chronic pain/possible fibromyalgia, he only wants to see me about every 3 to 6 months, were as the previous DO saw me almost monthly to help figure out what’s going on. I think the DO’s are great for the manipulations, but I think it also depends on the doctor’s personality to determine how great your treatment will be. Good luck!

  7. I work with MDs but have worked with DOs as well as my ob/gyn is a DO. Towards the end of my pregnancy I had terrible back pain. I ended up at the chiropractor (one with experience treating pregnant women and with a breakaway table so he could adjust as to not have pressure on my belly), but next go round have decided I’ll probably go for Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment instead. In this case it will be cheaper than the chiro, so score! 🙂

    Some MDs believe in the whole body system function like DOs do, they just haven’t gone through the extra years of osteopathic training. On the same hand, one DO I worked with confused me, because she acted more like a traditional MD in her thinking. You really just need to get recommendations. I also would recommend (though read all the comments to see why there are complaints, some people are just always fussy) : AND please be sure to check your state’s Board of Medicine to check for convictions, etc (google “your state” medical board, here’s yours) : before going to any new doctor. That’s advice for anyone and everyone! 🙂

  8. Have you considered seeing a chiropractor? My husband has chronic back pain and regular chiropractic adjustments help a great deal.

    • Jessica Fisher says:

      Been thinking about that too. And procrastinating….

      • Highly recommend the chiropractor here! After baby #3 and a whole host of health problems to follow since 2008, I have switched the majority of my care to D.O.s as well as regular chiropractic care for chronic pain I’ve had for almost 2 years. I also take magnesium regularly, as recommended by my D.O.-minded M.D., in leiu of muscle relaxers because I was told that it would help to relax the muscles naturally. While I try to get this in the form of food, a magnesium supplement along with fish oil has been immensely helpful in keeping the edge off the regular pain I deal with. I don’t want drugs. I want to address the root of the problem. While my team of docs is helping me investigate the core cause, I am comfortable taking these supplements and getting regular chiro care so I can function with my fam. I will pray for you as well and leave you with Isaiah 41:10, 13 when the pain is great and weary…they certainly help me and I hope they do for you as well. Ultimately, I find comfort in Rev. 21:4 because it’s a promise of no more pain EVER in heaven. Hope is helpful. Praying for wisdom and healing for you.

  9. I highly recommend Dr. John Sarno’s books about the mind-body connection – basically, how repressed anger and anxiety can cause chronic physical pain.

  10. I have suffered with chronic pain since 2006 when I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. Some days are terrible. I am only on amnityptaline (sp?) to help me sleep a little better but it has stopped working.. I have to make an appointment with my doctor in January to see If I can get some kind of help with the pain. I have grinned and bore it way to long. I need some relief. Unfortunately living in a fairly rural area we don’t have access to some of the specialy trained doctors that the bigger cities do.

  11. My doctor is a D.O. and has been very helpful with managing my migraines. I also deal with chronic headaches–a common problem for migraine sufferers. He listens well, asks lots of questions, and always answers mine thoroughly. Hope you can get the help you need!

  12. Hi Jessica! Thanks for your awesome blog post about our discussion on chronic pain and DO’s! I enjoyed chatting with you on the phone and hearing your story. I’m glad to see that so many of your readers have visited DO’s- how fantastic! Wishing everyone a pain-free holiday season 🙂 Dr. Jen Caudle
    twitter @DrJenCaudle

  13. I check your blog everyday but rarely comment. I have had chronic pain for well over a year now due to an injurysustained in physical therapy. My advice for you is to keep fighting! You need to see a second doctor and I would also suggest finding a good massage therapist. What worked for me was trigger point injections (in my case they blocked the nerve pain and allowed it to reset) followed by physical therapy and massage. Please please please get a second opinion. It is totally worth it. I was told I would never walk again without pain, much less run and I am running again. Please go.

    • Jessica Fisher says:

      Thanks for your faithful readership — and for the good suggestions. Yes, I will get another opinion — as soon as I figure out where the insurance will pay. 😉

  14. I would like to echo what Ashley says above and add a second suggestion of seeking out information about trigger-point therapy massage that you or your husband can do for you at home. Hip pain can be caused by leg, back, and glute muscle trigger points. Seeing a DO is a good way to go, but be sure that you are educated so that you understand what the DO is doing and what she recommends you do when you go home. This is the book that my husband uses and has loaned to a massage therapist friend on occasion.

  15. Love DOs! I am married to one so I am a little biased! But, long before he went through med school, I went to a DO and noticed the difference right away….. she listened and took time to ask questions. Their training does include a ton of hours on osteopathic manipulative medicine (OMM)….and they are trained to think differently (why is there a problem vs. let’s just fix the problem). Hope you start to feel better, Jessica!

  16. I live in a state that is beyond on recognizing the benefits of a more holistic approach to medicine. I’ve seen 3 DO’s 2 were part of the major university hospital & basically acted the same as an MD; i.e. rushed! 1 (if you were lucky 2) problems for a visit & about 15 minutes max talking to you & that 15 minutes involved going out to get the script that was printed off.
    The one DO that I loved moved out of state because the insurance & state legislation was too difficult.
    I’m on the look out for another DO but I’m currently seeing an MD who is new to me (my last doctor had DO after his name & went into teaching…..after saying he was burned out & the way the insurance reimburses & the amount of patients they need to see daily is a joke)
    I’ve had chronic headaches for decades now, I never knew I wasn’t suppose to feel pain, I’m not taking care of it because either I can’t afford the treatment (that might work) or the various others treatments cause more pain or I don’t want to be in a medication fog.
    So if you go to one DO & don’t like them, try another. What works for someone else might not work for you.
    I really like acupuncture (no longer covered by insurance) & osteopathic manipulative treatment plus acupressure massages. Stand alone trigger point massages have helped too. (Who knew that neck pain can also come from under your armpit???)
    After a car accident 5 yrs ago I had steroid injections to help reduce some swelling around my knees. My dad routinely gets an injection that numbs the nerve to get it to relax & release….he walks completely different afterwards, I am AMAZED at how much better he walks.
    So after the holidays go see a new doctor, really it’s not that bad (this coming from the women who will do black Friday shopping at Walmart & Kohl’s instead of going to the dentist LOL, that’s a whole other story!!!)
    Good luck & Merry Christmas!!!!

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