Not all doctors work with the patient’s best interest in mind. In fact, with most pain doctors, the level of service they provide you versus what they provide their family members are completely different. Therefore, it’s important to distinguish a good doctor from a bad one.
Does your pain doctor really care about you?
In order to answer this question, you must learn how good doctors treat their patients. Once you know these qualities, you will be able to distinguish good pain doctors from bad ones. Not only will you save money in the long-run, you will also manage your pain symptoms better.
1. Bad doctors give you pain meds but good doctors help determine the cause of pain
Sure, every pain doctor in the world can give you prescription drugs to dampen the pain. But the best doctors will talk to you about the cause of your pain. Whether it’s your lack of physical activity, stress level, or a health condition like arthritis, a good doctor will go through the entire list. He or she will get to know your daily routine, and figure out exactly where the underlying problems may be.
2. Good pain doctors teach you the secret of properly using heat or ice
Heat and ice serve different purposes, and is an ancient secret practiced by pain doctors for centuries. Try using an ice pack for acute injuries, to minimize blood flow and reduce swelling and pain. And apply heat to loosen muscles and stiff joints and help you feel more mobile. Good doctors will recommend you try these hidden secrets before you take pain medication.
3. Good pain doctors know that your back or neck pains have no relation to abnormal MRI results
Your back, neck and shoulder pain likely have no relations to your abnormal MRI. In fact, studies show that 90 out of every 100 MRIs will indicate some abnormalities, even if the patients are not experiencing any pains at all.
4. Good pain doctors tell you to reconsider before requesting pain meds
The latest research indicates that consuming opioid pain medication (i.e. OxyContin) for chronic pain relief can alter the brain. Specifically, it can damage the brain’s ability to feel pleasure which may lead to a strong craving for more drugs. Several studies found that prolonged use of pain medication can actually cause increased back or neck pains.
5. Good pain doctors teach you to play word games or puzzles to ease mild pain
By playing word games or one of your favourite challenging puzzles (i.e. Sudokus, Rubix cubes, etc) you can actually ease mild body pains. Science has proven that your brain is responsible for sending pain waves to your body. Therefore, when you distract your brain, your sensation of pain is naturally reduced. Watching a funny TV show is another activity that helps reduce pain.
6. Good pain doctors will advise you that back pains do subside on their own
In most cases, the best remedy for back pains is time. All good doctors know this—it’s not rocket science. In fact, approximately 90% of lower back pains subside within 12 weeks even without any medical intervention.
7. Good pain doctors encourage patients to experiment with diets to ease chronic pain
If you have chronic pain, consider experimenting with different diets as a way of reducing pain symptoms. Eliminate dairy products for 2-3 weeks, then reintroduce it into your diet. Track how you felt before and after the diet. Conduct similar tests with wheat, red meat, seafood, citrus, nuts, caffeine and alcohol, one ingredient at a time. If your pain becomes worse when you reintroduce a food, you may by allergic to the food or your body just might be extra sensitive to the food. Either way, you can remove the food to manage the pain.
8. Good pain doctors can recommend treatment in multiple areas of expertise, not just one
In most developed countries, doctors tend to specialize in one area like narcotics, injections, prescriptions, or surgery. These doctors will typically only recommend something within that area of expertise due to familiarity or personal conviction. However, there is a long list of effective pain treatment options such as massage therapy, aromatherapy, acupuncture, chiropractic therapy, spinal cord stimulators, biofeedback and other types of behavioural therapy.
9. Good pain doctors tell you to think twice before opting for surgery
Think twice before signing up for surgery, particularly on your spine or back. According to a 2016 review published in the Journal of Pain Research, 74.6% of lower back and spine surgeries fail to relieve pain completely. The medical term for this is “failed back surgery syndrome”. In a Consumer Reports survey, only 60 percent of patients who had back surgery were satisfied with the end results.
10. Good pain doctors educate patients that pain can be partly (not entirely) mental too
Chronic pain is not a simple problem to diagnose or solve. However, studies show that pain is strongly influenced by the ways in which the brain processes pain signals. For instance, some studies found that chronic pain can trigger different emotional reactions (i.e. fear, anxiety or panic) depending on what the individual believes about his or her pain signals. Therefore, good doctors may want you to explore meditation, psychotherapy, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), and even self-hypnosis as possible treatments for pain.
11. Good pain doctors will tell you that pain can improve with a proper exercise routine
Your pain will improve with the right kind of exercise. For instance, low-impact aerobic exercises like walking, bicycling, and elliptical machines can improve arthritis symptoms. Start low and work your way up to 150 minutes of moderate to intense aerobic exercise weekly.