Managing Pain

Christopher Lukas Health Guide
  • I’ve been monitoring the message board for this site, and I’ve seen a number of communications about pain.

    While it’s very important to make sure the pain is not related to some serious organic issue – such as cancer or infection – and while most urologists and other physicians are good at finding such causes, what many physicians are not good about is pain.

    Those who have read my initial (background) blog essay will remember that I found out I had prostate cancer because I initially consulted my urologist about a severe pain I had in my testicles. This turned out to be unrelated to the prostate cancer (which was diagnosed separately), but the pain was extremely upsetting to me. The urologist said I had epididymitis (definition: inflammation of the epididymis, a thin tube that runs from the testes to the prostate gland).
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    But it turned out that my urologist, who had seen epididymitis many times didn’t understand just how painful it was. Nor did he (or my internist) have the slightest idea how to deal with it. Warm baths. Aspirin. Ibuprofen. All were prescribed. None had the desired effect.
    Eventually, at my wit’s end, after months of pain and worry, I took myself to the pain clinic at Beth Israel hospital in New York City.

    Since then, I have become much more sophisticated about pain. I’ve even co-authored a book (STAYING IN CHARGE, Wiley, NYC, 2005) that deals with pain and what’s called palliative care. What I discovered was this:

    1. If you knock pain out early, it’s much easier to treat.
    2. If you attack pain with serious drugs, you’re not likely to become addicted to the drugs, because the pain is what you’re after, not a “high.”
    3. “Serious drugs” involve getting a prescription; they’re morphine or morphine-like drugs. The physician who administers them should be a specialist in pain.
    4. Most physicians are afraid of overmedicating, but few understand the danger of under-medicating; undermedicating is as serious as over-medicating.
    5. The longer you wait to get out pain, the longer it takes to knock it out.

    That being said, what happened to me is extraordinary. I went to this pain clinic. I waited an hour to see a doctor. She asked if I’d ever been given Percocet or anything like it. I said, no. She gave me one Percocet tablet and left me with a nurse, to monitor my progress. The pain dissipated, for the first time in 5 months. I took half a Percocet at home the next day, and ¼ of a tablet the third day.

    That was four years ago. The pain has returned only occasionally, and each time I knock it out with half a tablet. So much for pain. So much for knocking it out early and with power!

    I repeat: once you have made sure the pain is not related to a serious underlying problem or disease, get yourself to a pain specialist. It’ll save you lots of time – and pain.

  • How do you manage pain? Talk about it in the message boards.

  • Learn more about dealing with chronic pain.

Published On: October 06, 2006