Pain is an unwanted but no less necessary part of life. It is the way our bodies help guard us against prolonged exposure to the things and behaviors that can cause us further damage.
It is certainly not an ideal system, however. What do we do when pain persists for apparently no discernable reason? We are careful, we do the right things, we go to physical therapy, and yet an act as simple as brushing up against a bedsheet can send burning, tingling pain through part of the body.
Perhaps this pain is coming after a surgery on your knee or ankle. Perhaps it has developed following recovery from a sports injury, a hernia repair, or an injury at home. Whatever the cause, having this type of pain can be a source of torment in your life. You may have tried to find answers, and you may not have found the source or relief you were looking for.
What Chronic Pain Patients May Hear
The search for answers regarding chronic pain typically begin in very natural places: either at the office of your primary care physician or, if applicable, the office of the surgeon who recently performed a procedure on you.
In the best-case scenario, your primary care physician, specialist, or surgeon will be able to identify the source of the pain and make their best recommendations for treatment. There are times, however, when you might hear something akin to the following:
- “We have not found anything out of the ordinary.”
- “It will get better eventually.”
- “Wait it out.”
The idea of waiting may feel exasperating, and that is entirely understandable, but it can also be the natural course of recovery for pain to persist for weeks or even months. This is especially true for surgical procedures, where additional trauma must be made to the body via incisions and other methods to produce the desired (and hopefully overall better) results.
And if initial reviews and tests come back negative as to anything out of the ordinary, this is very likely not a shortcoming on the doctor or surgeon’s part.
The human body is an extremely complex organism, with various parts and systems demanding a focus of study all their own. That is why specialists exist in so many different fields and areas of the body.
It is next to impossible for a general practitioner to pursue all available possibilities. Someone with as extensive knowledge as “Dr. House” tends to exist only on TV. But negative findings are still very important sources of information should pain persist and new avenues need to be pursued.
Even so, it can still feel like nothing is happening. You can’t be expected to wait forever, right?
How Long Should You Wait on Chronic Pain?
The amount of time you should wait for improvement on pain can vary depending on the situation.
For example, if you have been recovering from a knee replacement or other form of surgery, there is usually a window of 6 months to expect natural improvement. Some people will recover faster than others, and there are many additional factors that can have an influence as well. In the meantime, steps should be taken to attempt managing the symptoms in the best and safest ways possible.
If it has been more than 6 months of chronic pain, however, or the pain has increased and/or made daily living progressively worse, it is time to seek out further opinions, which may include our office.
Expanding Your Web of Support
The best first source for determining further experts is, once again, your primary care physician, your treating specialist, or your surgeon. Theoretically, they are the most knowledgeable of your case at this time, and may be able to make recommendations based on what has been discovered so far. If they can rule out problems such as arthritis, tendinitis, and bursitis, that can help guide your journey to other specialists.
You may even consider a second opinion by a similar specialist to receive a “fresh set of eyes” on the situation.
If the problem may be peripheral nerve-related (nerves outside of the spinal cord), we may be able to help. This will entirely depend on the case, however, and all cases are different. But if a nerve issue of some sort is suspected, do not listen to anyone who says you “can’t do anything to fix nerve problems.” This simply is not true.
While not every nerve-related issue may be treatable, many can be addressed in ways that significantly relieve pain and improve function. At the very least, a physician with expertise in peripheral nerve care should be involved in evaluation and consultation on possible treatment options, and no blanket statements should be made about there being no actual options.
Information is Key
The more informed you are about your condition and your options, the better equipped you will be to seek the right specialists or pain management experts to provide help for your discomfort.
Ask as many questions of your physicians and surgeons as you need to. There are also resources available in books and online, but we do caution you to be prudent with them. It can be easy to find misinformation or go down rabbit holes that do not end up benefiting your situation.
We have many webpages and blogs that might provide some insight into nerve-related possibilities. We also have free downloadable guides for specific situations that you can find below:
If you would like to contact our office in Towson, please do so at (410) 709-3868. You may also fill out our online contact form to have a member of our staff reach out to you.