Misconceptions About Pain – Grinning and Bearing It!

There are many misconceptions about pain. Here we tries to dispel some common myths.

Doctors differ in how they deal with pain. Older ones – of the family doctor variety who have a lot of experience in treating a variety of non-life-threatening injuries and illnesses – often dismiss pain with a hearty,Guest Posting “You’ll feel better soon.” Younger specialists, who have to fight much harder to earn their livelihoods and are also more materialistic, are much more solicitous of their patients’ comfort and prescribe painkillers as easily as they would offer a child sweets.

But on the whole doctors tend to undertreat pain. There is a feeling that pain is just a fact of life. It accompanies all illnesses and it has to be borne. There is also the fear – both among doctors and among patients – that if painkillers are taken too often, they could become a habit.

But, as doctors are realising, pain can take a heavy toll on a patient’s health and spirits. Compared to this, the risk of becoming addicted to painkillers is small. OTC (or over the counters) drugs are medicines that can be bought without a prescription and can relieve pain quite miraculously if they are used before the pain becomes really bad. And if one medicine does not work, a stronger one can be tried.

But does this mean that OTC medicines can be popped as nonchalantly as we pop chocolates into our mouths? Many people think that they can, but they are wrong. In fact, there are many misconceptions about pain. Here are the myths and the true facts about them.

Misconception 1. If pain goes away with OTC medication, it cannot be anything serious.

This is not true. Your response to OTC medicines has nothing to do with the seriousness of your medical problem. A sprained ankle is definitely not life-threatening, but the pain can be excruciating and may not respond to OTC medicine at all. On the other hand, serious illnesses like cancer or strokes may cause so little pain (at times) that OTC medicines work fine for patients.

So when do you take pain seriously? A rule of thumb is that minor ailments, even if the pain is agonising at first, normally heal or get much better in a week. They also don’t come on very suddenly. You should see a doctor if the condition does not improve, if the attacks of pain are sudden and strong and if OTC medicines do not work at all.

Misconception 2. Women deal with pain better than men do.

Actually, research has proved that neither sex is better in dealing with pain per se. There are different kinds of pain and men and women deal with them differently. Women are able to deal better with chronic pain than men are, but men can deal better with sudden, acute pain – like when you hit your thumb with a hammer or touch something very hot.

Women, however, recover from pain quicker than men do. So in the case of, say a tooth extraction, women suffer more initially, but are less bothered by the lingering discomfort over the next few days.

Research on people suffering from osteoarthritis has given a reason for this ability of women to deal with chronic pain. They cope because they complain to friends, seek support, pray and ask their doctors for help. So they get emotional support and this helps them. Men, on the other hand, try to grin and bear it, to keep up their macho image and, as a result, they do not cope as well.

Misconception 3. Breast cancer does not cause pain.

It is true that breast cancer doesn’t cause pain in the initial stages, but this does not mean that if something is causing you pain in your breast, it cannot be breast cancer. Certain uncommon types of breast cancer can cause pain – for example, cancer that affects the skin and lymph glands in the breast.

But generally, tenderness in the breast is nothing to worry about. This can be caused by the peaking of the hormone progesterone just before one’s periods and also by hormones that older women take after menopause.

Harmless cysts, too heavy a workout and even a bra that doesn’t fit properly can cause pain in the breasts and this is nothing to worry about. But one should visit the doctor if one notices a lump in the breast, if there is a change in the appearance of a breast or nipple, if there is a swelling, redness, a persistent nagging pain in either breast or if one experiences unusual sensations in a breast, whether painful or not.

Misconception 4. Everyone responds to pain in the same way.

Not only do men and women respond to pain in different ways, but different individuals have different thresholds of pain. Some bear the pain of a broken arm without a murmur while others weep and moan over a small bruise. Again the same individual may react differently to pain when she is upset, is under stress, is with a friend, is calm and when she knows that she has to cope by herself. Hormone levels can affect response to pain too. Women are generally more sensitive to pain just before their periods.

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