Guest Commentary by
Dr. George Arcos, D.O.
Pain Institution of North Florida
For Chronic Pain Sufferers, Relief is Simpler Than You Think
Spring is in full swing and Floridians are spending more time outdoors, but many times the increase in outdoor activity causes painful allergy symptoms and various aches and pains.
For many of our neighbors, pain isn’t something that comes and goes with the seasons. It’s a daily fact of life, one that makes each day a difficult ordeal to be endured, rather than enjoyed. The thing is, there are now enough options available that it doesn’t have to stay this way.
I started out in medicine as an anesthesiologist. From a role making sure patients didn’t feel any pain, I quickly became interested in why they felt pain. I soon moved into osteopathic medicine, where I could focus on preventive health care and a “whole person” approach to medicine. Osteopathic physicians are trained to address not just the specific source of a patient’s pain – a sinus infection, for example, or a broken bone – but also to recognize the ways that an illness or injury in one part of your body can affect and cause pain in another.
Chronic pain is our nation’s third most prevalent health problem, costing our society $75 billion a year in medical treatment and lost wages alone. Clearly, we all have a stake in this enormous problem.
In the past, chronic pain was the most under-treated health problem in our nation. This is because pain has always been regarded as a symptom of a disease or ailment rather than understood as a unique condition itself. Today it is widely accepted that chronic pain isn’t just discomfort that has lasted a long time, but instead is part of a more complex syndrome that can also lead to anxiety, depression, sleep disruption, low self-esteem and anger.
Medicine is changing so quickly these days that it can be hard for most people to keep up. For example, a herniated disc in your back used to mean invasive surgery and weeks or even months of recovery and therapy. But for some patients it can now mean an outpatient procedure and nothing more than a small bandage on their back. Other seemingly miraculous medical advances are happening all the time, so it’s no wonder most people are unfamiliar with options that don’t necessarily mean invasive surgery.
The good news in all of this is that patients have many different options to relive chronic pain, and doctors will often combine therapies to treat chronic pain. The goals of treatment are to improve function and reduce chronic pain. For some patients, exercise is recommended to control pain; however, exercise may cause some patients to initially feel more pain. So medication can be used to treat chronic pain, as well as such non-traditional approaches as acupuncture and injection therapy such as cortisone injections or electrical field therapies.
For some people who experience chronic pain, the regular family doctor may find the best solution. For others, it may be an osteopathic physician whose whole-body approach brings relief. The important thing to remember this spring and year-round, is that chronic pain is something you don’t have to suffer through in silence. There are plenty of options out there, and you should keep looking until you find the right one for you.
Dr. George J. Arcos, D.O., F.A.O.C.A., is a board certified osteopathic physician and founder of the Pain Institute of North Florida. The Institute offers a range of services to treat chronic pain and provide wellness to patients through a holistic approach. Learn more about the Pain Institute of North Florida at www.paininstituteofnorthflorida.com.