Challenges of a Chronic Pain Diagnosis
What exactly does it mean - a chronic pain diagnosis? The diagnosis can separate into different types of pain ranging from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), fibromyalgia, and intriguingly named Trendelenburg gait to non-specific low back pain. Non-specific low back pain, which again is a classified diagnosis, is a non-specific pain that says medicine cannot specifically identify the why and what is wrong?
Many of you reading this have been challenged or confused as to why a diagnosis doesn’t lead to successful treatment to stop your chronic pain. Continually asking yourself "Why am I in pain?" often shortly followed by 'Why me?"
Importance of being given a diagnosis
I previously worked with children with learning difficulties. There was a real demand from parents to have a diagnosis, whether attention deficit disorder, Asperger’s or other developmental problems. Once they had a diagnosis it helped them make decisions and gave them options. Finally getting ‘that diagnosis’ opened doors to financial support and treatment programmes.
Implications of a chronic pain diagnosis
In much the same way, for you, the implications of a chronic pain diagnosis are yes, it’s a help as you have a category, you have a specialist or pain specialists that treat that category of pain. These pain specialists have done research, have extensive knowledge, for the specific area of your body and a specific type of pain. Today in medicine we readily accept that a specialist such as a cardiologist only works with your heart but is unable to treat your diabetes – that’s a different door.
Doctors need a diagnosis for your pain
As I have described above a diagnosis was important to parents. It’s also important to doctors and specialists too. Doctors in their work need a diagnosis, to enable them to prescribe treatments and protocols. Chronic pain diagnosis is a must for referral to the correct ‘door’ for you to open and step through. So, this pain diagnosis is important a to you as a patient.
Patient diagnosis may be a two - edged sword
Though for you, the patient who lives with chronic pain this diagnosis can be a two-edged sword. Once we get a diagnosis there is a natural expectation that there will be a cure for our pain. An expectation that doctors, pain specialists and pain therapists such as physiotherapists or chiropractors will be able to ‘fix’ our pain. After all, if we get a headache, a hangover, a broken bone or more serious diseases like diabetes medicine has the answers, right? Perhaps, perhaps not?
Catastrophic or Chronic Pain
Constant pain that continues for months or years is classified medically as chronic pain. But talking to people in general conversation, who have exactly that experience of pain say, “I don’t have chronic pain that would be catastrophic”.
Isn’t it interesting the difference between a medical diagnosis and what chronic pain means to the general population?
Pain syndromes - ongoing or intermittent pain
As you, the reader, have a wide range of pain syndromes and types of ongoing or intermittent pain too diverse to include, I chose to focus on chronic pain resulting from surgery to cure chronic pain. I hope to bring all my ideas together to use this one example to illustrate my unique and different approach of “putting a wide angle lens on chronic pain and it’s treatments” and how my methods will help you make changes.
Chronic post-surgical pain
One of the ways you can develop chronic pain is after surgery. Although we expect surgery after a particular diagnosis such an appendicitis, gall bladder removal or hip or knee replacement to recovery to effectively be “as good as new”. Recovery time may vary, involve medication and rehab but in reality, sometimes we are left with residual pain as I mentioned above.
Personally, I remember being very reliant on opioid medication due to severe on-going pain after major abdominal surgery – waking up my husband in the middle of the night “I need my pills, honey”. Three months later I was healing well, infrequent pain and no longer needed medication.
But for some people this is not always the case – their pain remains, medication remains and their pain journey continues, now diagnosed as chronic post-surgical pain.
I’ve had surgery to fix my pain – now I have chronic post-surgical pain?
Here is a major challenge. You expected to return to life and body being no different to, life and body before your pain developed. Hasn’t the physical issue been resolved by having surgery?
Not always, sometimes it can be worse.