The 5 Myths of Pain Relief

Local pain specialist Dr. Bradley Carpentier has narrowed down what he calls the five myths of pain. The most common, unfortunately, is the myth that all pain can be cured.

«I think our expectation is all pain problems can be solved,» said Carpentier, sitting in his Salinas office. «Unfortunately, not all pain can be relieved.»

With private practices in Salinas and Monterey, Dr. Carpentier is board certified in anesthesiology and pain medicine by the American Board of Anesthesiology. His special interests include the treatment of painful neuropathic conditions — chronic pain caused by injury or damage to the nerve system — using neuromodulation techniques, including spinal and peripheral nerve stimulation.

Part of the problem, Carpentier said, is people’s insistance on ignoring pain until it’s too late. By the time they address the issue, there is little that can be done to address it.

«I have patients that come in and they can’t put their foot on the ground. They can’t put on a shoe or a sock,» he said. «If we had gotten to them earlier, we could have done something.»

Another issue is patient’s ignorance of pain specialists and what they do. Often they are lumped in with other specialists, and some family physicians will not refer their patients to see a pain specialist.

About 70 percent of the patients Carpentier works with have spinal pain or are recovering from surgeries. But he said he treats all sorts of pain, from chronic aches to repetitive motion pain.

Carpentier breaks down the five myths of pain:

  • Doctors can almost always take the pain away: You hear advertisements that promise to rid you of your pain, when in reality it is rare that pain is completely cured.

«As a pain specialist, I give my patients specifics when looking at the best treatments, but I don’t over promise and I never overtreat, as this can make things worse,» he said.

  • The best remedy is pain medication: It is important to treat drugs as a possible short-term solution. Long term it is much better for patients to learn how to effectively manage their pain.

«This may not be what my patients want to hear, but it is better for the body to use both short- and long-term strategies in order to heal properly,» he said. «Drugs can actually make you feel worse and can leave you feeling dopey — it is better to live life fully aware of your surroundings.»

  • Alternative treatments don’t work as well as drugs: Carpentier said the right state of mind is the key to healing. Some alternative treatments work very well for patients, without the risk of dependency.

«While drugs are sometimes necessary, I encourage my patients to try things like hypnosis, meditation, biofeedback, physical therapy or specific exercises to help manage and even alleviate their pain,» said Carpentier.

  • Talking about pain can make it worse: Some think that if you discuss your pain with others that it makes it harder to live with. This is only true if you continue to complain, without constructive conversations.

«I have my patients on an online journal program to help them manage their pain and explore for themselves better ways to manage it,» he said. «That way we are a team working toward the best solution. Diaries sometimes help you ‘get it out’ and keep your conversations with others more positive.»

  • Exercise makes pain worse: Often there is nothing better than working out, as long as it is in proper form.

«I enjoy treating athletes because they tend to really pay attention to how their bodies work and they have a potential to heal faster and better,» he said. «Make sure you discuss your method of exercise with your physician and don’t overdo it. When you reach your goals you can be even more proud of yourself for completing your regimen with added challenges.»

For more information on pain care, visit the Web site of the American Chronic Pain Association at www.acpa.org.

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