Case study: A 38 year old expat client attended the clinic with lower back pain. It occured when he was bending down to get his kid´s school bag. As he was turning and looking up he felt a sudden sharp pain on his lower back. It stopped him and for a second he could not breathe. Not wanting to scare his child, he let out a long oooooh sound and then struggled to the car, but managed to get his kid to school on time. During the day the pain was unbearable, he remained mostly seated behind his desk and when colleagues were not paying attention he walked slowly to the restroom. He struggled to sit down and finally in the afternoon said he would go home to finish off the remainder of his tasks. Once home he remained on the sofa, and his wife managed to help him upstairs to bed. He was not able to sleep and laid awake in pain. On day 3 of his suffering after his wife, friends and even child urged him to see a doctor he presented to the clinic. When asked why he did not take any pain killers his response was;
If I take painkillers it only masks the pain and what good is that? Besides I want to first know what is causing this pain with a scan.
Pain and what it means to us
Pain is a very unpleasant sensation and experience typically associated with tissue damage. If tissue is damaged it releases enzymes and factors in your blood that activates your body to respond against the pain. A response that is important for the initial few minutes or hours is the production of stress hormones. These hormones work as a pain relief for a very limited time and this is your basic survival function kicking in so that you can get help, medical help because your body is telling you that something is wrong.
Pain that occurs within minutes is called acute pain and typically lasts a few hours or several days. However when pain persists for longer periods up to 3 months this is called chronic pain.
Chronic pain is not good because it eventually depletes your body of the initial stress hormone, compromises your immune system, promotes the production of toxic enzymes and your ability to heal worsens as time goes by.
Here are the 3 reasons why you should treat your pain now:
- To allow your immune system to recover so that you can recover
- To ensure less tissue damage which leads a lower chance of chronic pain
- So that others around you are not also affected by your suffering which can lead to relationship or work-related problems. You can develop poor memory, poor cognition, low attention and reduced ability to perform complex tasks.
Pain, any type of pain affects not only you but also your family, loved ones, your work and community. The lack of active, working people has direct and indirect affect on the economy as well.
The risk of acute pain developing into chronic pain is high. According to a systematic literature review, 50% of people after a surgical procedure develop chronic pain and 5% will end up with severe pain
The final and fourth reason why you should treat pain is because it affects your sleep. Even when you have acute pain, not being able to sleep properly for a few nights can seriously affect your road to recovery.
A bad day with pain leads to a night with poor sleep, the next day you are at risk of having more pain episodes during the day which in turn leads to another bad day. This vicious cycle is what can increase your risk of chronic pain.
At expat health clinic, together we manage pain adequately. We do this so that your road to recover and continue life with your family, loved ones and work-related activites are not affected.
In our case study, the 38 year old father took some convicing. When we decided on the treatment plan with adequate pain relief, we also needed to discuss the issue of him wanting a CT-scan. Unfortunately at the time, he was in no state to have any radiological imaging. A CT-scan would require he lay flat on a hard bed for at least 45 minutes for the images to be taken. In his state, the specialist would most likely not approve the examination until the pain was signifincantly reduced or he was pain free. A CT-scan takes multiple images just miliseconds from each other and one needs to be able to remain perfectly still so as not to distort the images.
So once again, when you have pain, treat it first and well before it lingers for a longer time than necessary. Do it for yourself, your family and your community.