What Your Primary Care Doctor Doesn’t Know About Pain Symptoms |

What Your Primary Care Doctor Doesn’t Know About Pain Symptoms

January 15, 2014


pain relief-phoenixTo understand the real value of a pain management specialist, it helps to look at why primary care physicians can sometimes be hesitant when approaching chronic pain. Dr. Abigail Zuger is a practicing physician who covers medical ethics for The New York Times, in a series called Hard Cases. Last May, she discussed the treatment of pain by general practitioners and the various challenges surrounding it.

Dr. Zuger lists several different ways in which pain and neuropathy symptoms are a “sore subject” for doctors:

  • Pain cannot be measured scientifically, so proper diagnosis and treatment relies heavily on the patient’s honest assessment of their sensations;
  • It is increasingly dangerous for doctors to treat pain, because criminal proceedings for over-prescription of pain medication have become commonplace;
  • Training that doctors receive in medical school for the management of pain is extraordinarily thin.

painstopstock7Pain frequently not treated or under-treated

Pain is a common topic at many medical research facilities. However, because it’s such a difficult issue to solve, and because primary care physicians (for the reasons listed above) don’t always feel confident targeting neuropathic symptoms, experts at the University of Texas believe pain is not treated as well as it could be.

Pain must be treated, though. Failure to receive appropriate pain management care isn’t just a matter of comfort. It can lead to a slew of related health problems, including the following:

  • Sleep disorders
  • Difficulty staying fit (nutrition and exercise)
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Mental disorders

Subjectivity & the pain scale

As discussed above, pain cannot be measured objectively. We might be able to come up with words that fit different types of pain or neuropathy symptoms – such as a “stabbing” or “burning” sensation – but the extent of pain is not easy to pinpoint. It’s reasonable that a doctor can feel somewhat uneasy requesting a patient to place the amount of pain being experienced on a scale of 1 to 10. When the answer is “4,” for example, it’s not quite clear what that means because of personal perception.

Beyond subjectivity, pain is also highly confusing to many primary care doctors because of the training issue. Lack of education on the subject also means lack of an understanding of the broad set of tools available to pain management specialists operating in a multidisciplinary setting.

Utilizing a practice that focuses on pain treatments through a wide variety of modalities greatly improves a patient’s access to all the knowledge and techniques currently available. Call us today at (480) 331-4222 for a free consultation.

 

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