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April Fools’: 4 Pain Myths You Shouldn’t Fall For

With one online search – or a poll of your close friends and family members – you’ll get countless suggestions for relieving your pain. People are more than happy to give you the “secret” about pain, whether that’s “a supplement that will cure everything” or “a simple chemical/additive/food that’s the root of all your problems.” Myths like these are everywhere, and some are more dangerous than others. Here are a few of the most common.

  1. The truth is that pain is never normal.
    While age does bring with it nuisance aches and pains, saying that pain is normal can actually stop people from seeking the help they need. The physical wear and tear on our bodies from getting older can indeed lead to chronically painful issues, like herniated discs and joint pain, but these conditions can be treated. So when pain comes your way, don’t blame age – and don’t just suffer through it. Find real answers (and real relief).
  2. You can just push through it.
    We as humans have the tendency to think that if we simply ignore an issue, it will go away on its own. We assume we can tough it out or “grin and bear it” and that seeking help will somehow make us look weak. But ignoring pain can have serious consequences. It can impair your relationships and ability to function, cause emotional issues and, worst of all, cause you to hurt yourself further. In fact, leaving pain untreated – or trying to treat it yourself – can often make it more difficult to treat down the road. So when a health issue arises, especially if it involves long-lasting pain, suck it up and see a doctor (or you’ll pay for it later on).
  3. Rest is the best medicine.
    Conventional wisdom dictates that if you’re sick, you rest and give your body time to heal. The same is true with acute pain; laying off activities or chores after an injury can give your body time to repair itself. But chronic pain is different. While a day or two taking it easy isn’t necessarily a bad thing, more than that can actually have quite negative consequences. In fact, it’s been shown that bed rest is associated with more days off work and increased pain and disability.[1] It can result in decreased muscle conditioning and tone, cause digestive issues and put you at risk for blood clots. According to Harvard Medical School, if you must lie down, do it only for a few hours and for no longer than a day or two.[2] A better solution for addressing chronic pain is actually to get back to normal activities as soon as possible – with a little rest thrown in when absolutely needed.
  4. It must be in your head.
    To chronic pain sufferers, it can often seem like those around them don’t believe that their pain is real. After years of suffering with pain, you may still not have a concrete diagnosis and both your doctors and family members may start suggesting psychiatric help. All signs seem to suggest that they think you’re going crazy – or worse, just making it up. And sometimes you might be inclined to agree.

    But the truth is they know it’s real, just like you do. Your friends and doctors – especially if they’re trained to treat pain – know that pain is a complex issue that’s often invisible to the naked eye. And recommending behavioral health care isn’t an implication that you’re crazy or making it up. It comes from a place of caring, since chronic pain can often go hand in hand with anxiety, depression and coping difficulties. It means they want to see you get better – not just physically, but also mentally. So believe in those around you and trust that they’ll believe in you.

[1] Wilkes, M. S. “Chronic Back Pain: Does Bed Rest Help?” Western Journal of Medicine 172, no. 2 (February 1, 2000): 121–21.

[2] Harvard Health Publications. “Bed Rest for Back Pain? A Little Bit Will Do You.” January 24, 2017. Accessed February 13, 2017. http://www.health.harvard.edu/pain/bed-rest-for-back-pain-a-little-bit-will-do-you.