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  • Myths About Pain Busted

    Published: 09/12/2013


    Pain affects as many as 75 million Americans. Reasons for pain can be anything from degenerative conditions of the joints and spine (arthritis), neuropathic pain such as sciatica, diabetic neuropathy or herpes zoster to a combination of reasons or pathologies like cancer. 

    Since September is National Pain Awareness Month, we asked our own pain expert, Dr. Deepak Mehrotra from the Einstein Pain Institute to dispel some of the myths around pain that his patients often walk into his office believing.

    1) A doctor can judge by looking at a patient how much pain he/she is in.

    FALSE.

    People in Chronic pain use their defense mechanisms to get used to their pain and may not show it outwardly. One of the tools we (doctors) use to determine the level of pain is a verbal analog scale or verbal numeric scale where patient rate their pain on a scale of 0-10. The same degree of pain maybe interpreted as 2 out of 10 (10 being severe pain) by one person and 10 out of 10 by another.

    2) All kinds of pain are same.

    FALSE.

    Pain can present itself differently depending on the origin and pathology. There are many examples but here are a few: Abdominal pain could come from the viscera or organs inside the belly. Post herpetic neuralgia or phantom pain originates in the nervous system. Arthritis pain originates from the joints. These manifest themselves in different manners and need to be diagnosed correctly for appropriate treatment.

    3) Pain does not kill or cripple so there’s no point in treating it.

    FALSE.

    Pain has lead people to be suicidal. It can affect a person’s psyche or cause dangerous increases in blood pressure.

    4) Only wimps feel pain. “Macho” or strong people do not.

    FALSE.

    From a giant, muscled professional football player to a chess player, pain tolerance varies a lot from person to person. Most people are able to deal with mild to moderate pain but severe pain (more than 6 out of 10) becomes intolerable in an average person. If a person has concomitant problems such as psychological issues like depression, anxiety or stress then even lower levels of pain make the patient suffer. Pain may lead to low levels of functioning, sleep deprivation or inability to interact with others such as family, spouse and coworkers.

    5) Back pain is back pain is back pain.

    FALSE.

    There are many causes and different pain generators responsible for back pain. Back pain can be caused by the intervertebral disc, sciatica, facet or sacroiliac joint dysfunction, post lumbar surgery related scarring etc. No two people experience back pain in exactly the same way.

    6) There’s no sense treating pain if the original condition is not amenable to treatment.

    FALSE.

    There are many chronic diseases in our society that require constant monitoring and treatment although they cannot be cured. Pain affects a person’s functioning, their relationship and behaviors with others and needs to be treated.

    7) Pain does not serve any function.

    FALSE.

    Acute pain serves a function. It is protecting us from harm. If you place your hand on a hot plate your mind tells you to remove it before it gets burnt. Chronic Pain may or may not serve a protective function. If you feel pain in a knee, for example, the cartilage in the knee, may be completely worn out you may need an Orthopedic doctor who can decide when it may be time for a knee replacement.

    8) There’s no reason to get interventions, such as injections, if it is not going to cure the original problem.

    FALSE.

    Interventions are used both for diagnosing the source of pain and to treat pain caused by sciatica, facet joints etc. These treatments can improve functionality and ability to do therapy/exercise so one can resume their normal life.

    9) The only cure for most pain is surgery and medication.

    FALSE.

    Other ways are minimally invasive fluoroscopic guided procedures, physical therapy, exercises, weight loss, psychotherapy, non traditional medicine such as acupuncture, acupressure, TENS, hypnosis, relaxation techniques etc.

  • Communications Team