by Jackie Waters
Chronic pain is a problem that affects millions of people, and those who treat it on an everyday basis are not immune from developing pain conditions themselves.
Many will discover, however, than there are a specific set of roadblocks that medical professionals face when trying to seek help for their own chronic pain.
They don’t prioritize their pain
Doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals experience chronic pain just like millions of others, but since they’re intimately involved in the medical field they tend to downplay their symptoms – often on a misplaced sense of pride and other times because they don’t want to burden others. On top of that, the personality traits of highly-motivated medical professionals predispose them to exacerbating their own chronic pain.
“Generally, physicians are perfectionists. They tend to have a strong sense of responsibility and a need for both control and approval. They often are plagued by self-doubts and tend to defer or delay gratification. All of these traits can affect the course of their chronic illness—the diagnosis, treatment, and ongoing management,” says a study from the National Institutes of Health.
“Physicians often delay getting help when they first notice symptoms of an illness. The reasons for such delay include not wanting to appear weak or as if they are overreacting. They may be concerned about being wrong in their self-diagnosis or may not want to ‘bother’ colleagues. Some physicians may not think that self-care is a priority, perhaps assuming they will ‘get around to it later.’”
Medical professionals must not wait to begin to manage their chronic pain. Letting it get worse on the account of some sense of being “above it all” is a detriment to their personal health and the healthcare system in general.
Colleagues may not prioritize their pain
The same problem described above can influence the way other medical professionals react when their colleagues report chronic pain.
“Sometimes, doctors are often simply afraid that they can’t help you. That’s not a conversation any physician wants to have — after all, we’re wired to help our patients no matter what — so some may keep trying even though chronic pain isn’t really their expertise,” says the Randolph Pain and Wellness Center. “The opioid epidemic is putting doctors even more on the defensive, especially because many of them really aren’t trained in non-drug pain relief therapies. They’re very cautious about prescribing dangerous drugs, which is good — but they’re not sure what else can be done, either.”
This problem is magnified when it’s a doctor asking another doctor to help with their chronic pain.
What can be done?
You can’t rely on other medical professionals to be the be-all end-all of your treatment. You have to make numerous life changes at home to help you minimize your chronic pain. Proper diet and getting a good amount of exercise are paramount to mitigating the symptoms for your chronic pain. The latter may seem hard to do – as chronic pain can indeed limit exercise – but any little bit helps. Start small and work your way up to more strenuous exercise.
Above all, medical professionals must remember to take their own pain seriously and make time for self-care despite a hectic work schedule. The answer is not to load your body up with painkillers while continuing to move at the same pace. Not only is this ignoring the root problem, but it can potentially set one up for bigger addiction-related issues down the road. Painkiller abuse is rampant (and according to this study, this is the case even more so with women compared to men). Fortunately, there may be other options for medical professionals who deal with daily chronic pain..
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