Health & Medicine

Why it's important to not ignore pain

Dr. Karim Rasheed is with KentuckyOne Health Pain Management Associates.
Dr. Karim Rasheed is with KentuckyOne Health Pain Management Associates.

Which type of patient are you?

Patient "A" injures his fingertip and ignores it. Then, after one month, the pain escalates throughout his whole hand. At this point the patient seeks medical attention.

Or maybe you are patient "B." This patient suffers from back pain causing her to undergo back surgery. Every time she feels more pain she thinks she needs to receive more surgery.

Patient "C" lives daily with constant pain under the pretense that pain is OK as long as he can function.

Here's the thing: Anytime you experience pain it can affect the rest of your body. That means an escalation in your hormone levels, salt and sugar levels, heart rate, blood pressure — everything goes up.

Pain also makes you restless, which makes it hard to sleep well at night, and that makes you more aggravated in your daily life. Pain even lowers your immunity, making you vulnerable to infections. You don't have to be patient "A," "B" or "C." Physicians trained in pain management have a board certification and fellowship experience in pain management, can use their expertise to help you.

These are not the "pill mills" we so often hear about in the news. Yes, doctors prescribe painkillers when needed, but there is so much more to pain management than drugs.

One of the duties of a pain management physician is to find the source of the pain and to control it. This saves patients from knocking on the surgeon's door every time they exhibit pain. This also means avoiding possible complications during recovery from surgery and, ultimately, saving the patient money by avoiding surgery and a possible hospital stay.

Sometimes we use the same specialized skills in anesthesia to block the pain during surgery for long-term pain relief. We also use high tech equipment like spinal cord stimulator to provide long-term control of pain. These stimulators are like a pacemaker placed in the back. There is a mild electric current that blocks the pain-nerve impulses to the specific area in the body. This helps to stop so many patients from taking pain medication and avoid most of the side effects or potential addiction.

We encourage physical therapy after we accomplish a reasonable pain control. Physical therapy helps patients improve usage in their arms, legs or organs in pain. Think of it as if you have a window that you haven't opened in 10 years. When you try to open it, it would not open easily. It is the same thing with a body part that we don't use because it is too painful. The more we use it, the more functional it will become.

It is no surprise that many patients postpone going to a doctor — especially for pain. In our culture, pain is part of our life, and many patients feel it is a sign of weakness to suffer from it. The irony is that the longer a patient suffers from pain, the more their body deteriorates because of it.

Within the last 20 years physicians have put more attention on their patients' pain. Only since the early 2000s has a patient's pain level become part of the vital sign questions.

It may not feel good, but pain is good. Your body is telling you something — the truth. Listen to your pain. Let us help you through your pain.