How to deal with chronic pain
Some aches and pains are a part of life for most people, especially as you age. But for some, that pain can persist beyond what is normal.
“Chronic pain is pain that persists or recurs for more than three months,” said Dr. David Sliwoski, interventional pain management and anesthesiology specialist and Chair of Surgery at Aurora Medical Center – Washington County. “When pain is present for a long period of time, the way our body processes and deals with the pain signals starts to change.”
Chronic pain can have serious impacts on your overall health and well-being. Suffering with chronic pain can affect your mood, sleep quality, activity levels, relationships and even your general sense of how you are doing. Addressing the root of the problem is important.
“At times, chronic pain means that the underlying cause of the pain has not been adequately diagnosed or addressed,” said Dr. Sliwoski. “The reality is that people living with chronic pain often have not gotten a thorough evaluation by a trained expert and are living with diagnoses that have not been clearly nailed down.”
By listening to a patient carefully, examining them and reviewing their medical records, pain management specialists like Dr. Sliwoski are often able to determine a specific diagnosis. Figuring that out can allow him to recommend very specific treatment options that can, at times, rapidly and completely eliminate the cause of someone’s chronic pain.
“We carefully examine each patient and their chart in order to ensure that they receive the correct diagnosis, and that no underlying cause of their pain has been overlooked,” he said. “My goal is to be an expert detective of painful conditions.”
At times, an exact diagnosis or completely effective treatment is elusive.
“In situations where the underlying cause doesn’t have a quick or easy fix, we shift the focus towards helping the patient cope and live with their chronic pain,” said Dr. Sliwoski.
Treating chronic pain can pose several challenges. Many of the treatments for acute pain are not safe or effective for chronic pain.
“Fortunately, there are many tools that can help,” said Dr. Sliwoski. “As medical technology rapidly advances, significant progress continues to be made in treating chronic pain.”
Treatments can include individually tailored physical therapy, medication, braces, injections, surgeries, implanted devices and nerve destruction procedures that can be done with the tip of a needle. These treatments can help increase your ability to cope and function with residual pain that can’t be eliminated. Staying active is also very important.
“Sometimes, people with chronic pain are hesitant to exercise for fear of making their pain worse,” said Dr. Sliwoski. “But it’s important to find an exercise that works for you. Physical activity and good conditioning of our muscles are critical in helping to keep chronic pain under control.”
If you are experiencing chronic pain and the current treatments you are receiving aren’t effective, it may help to have an evaluation and consultation with a physician who is a pain management specialist.
About the Author
Ben Hoekstra is a public affairs coordinator with Advocate Aurora Health. He previously worked in marketing and PR for various Milwaukee nonprofits and received his master’s degree in Corporate Communications from Marquette University. He enjoys the outdoors, cooking, and all things Milwaukee.