There are many treatment options for people with pain. One of the most difficult experiences is finding the right treatment or professional to help you.
The following two questions can help you make a decision about the treatment that is right for you. Because it can be difficult and confusing to choose the right treatment, these questions can serve as a starting point. This doesn't mean you'll immediately find the treatment that solves your problems (already), but it does mean you'll increase the chance that you can structurally improve your pain problem!
Question 1: What evidence is there that this treatment works?
When you choose a treatment, you obviously want a treatment that has been proven to work for (your type of) pain symptoms. You can do this in a number of ways, including looking for information on patient association websites such as "Pain patients to one voice" (Dutch) - where you can also find the standard of care for chronic pain.
When asking a professional directly for evidence of treatment, be wary of treatments that "work for everyone" or where the professional "only measures positive effects." It is often the case that if a treatment is not reimbursed, there is not (yet) enough evidence that the treatment works. This does not mean that another treatment may not work, but that it is worth looking closely at the evidence that is available.
Question 2: Do I need to change anything for my problem, or does the treatment solve it?
If you decide to get treatment, you hope that the treatment will solve your pain problem quickly. If you don't have to do much yourself, that's easiest! If such a quick solution to your problem is possible, a doctor will make an assessment about whether to provide that treatment. Think especially of surgery or certain injections that can solve some pain problems. Unfortunately, it often happens that there is no quick fix for a pain problem, or that it only works partially or temporarily.
If all the treatments that were supposed to "solve" the problem have already been done and you are still in pain, it is possible that this type of solution will not work for your problem. There is a solution to your symptoms, but in this case it is up to you. As you have already read, pain is not just a process where stimuli in the nervous system determine how much pain you feel. Rather, you have a variety of ways to structurally influence your own pain! However, the ways in which you can learn to influence your own pain take a lot of your own time and effort! The biggest advantage is that working on your own pain problem is side effect free.
As tempting as it may sound, treatments that don't require you to do anything yourself to get rid of all your symptoms are often as they sound: "too good to be true."
Below are a number of other common treatments for pain symptoms
Physical therapy can be used to work on specific causes of chronic pain, as well as improve symptoms. In some cases, someone has chronic pain due to incorrect posture or excessive (unconscious) muscle tension, which can be corrected by the physical therapist. It has also been proven that good exercise and sports improve pain in the long run - although sometimes you have more discomfort in the short run! The advantage of physical therapy is that there are usually few negative side effects.
There are many types of medications that affect pain. For chronic pain, it is often very difficult to find an appropriate medication, or it seems to have little effect. There are different groups of medications that affect different parts of the nervous system. Some medications, such as morphine, act directly on the brain. Other drugs have more effect on the way stimuli are passed through the nervous system. Still others act at the site of the pain itself (and are therefore particularly useful for acute pain, such as acetaminophen). The biggest disadvantage of drugs is that they almost always have a negative effect, called side effects. With painkillers, this is often a somewhat sluggish feeling and a reduced ability to concentrate. Another disadvantage is that with certain medications you always have to take more to achieve the same effect and that the body can even become dependent on the medication.
For some pain complaints, a specialist may perform surgery. Your doctor will know when this is possible and will often refer you to a neurologist first. For example, surgery is common for herniated discs, when pain radiates to the legs, or when someone has difficulty walking.
Information and psychological treatment
Understanding pain and learning strategies to deal with it differently can really improve pain symptoms, and pain can still be a worthwhile factor. This blog is mainly about information and psychological factors that can help you influence your own pain.What treatment is good for my pain?