By Lisa Collier Cool
Whether you’re one of the millions of Americans who suffer from chronic pain or simply get the occasional backache, chances are good that some of your beliefs about pain could be wrong.
Many people believe, for example, that medications are the best way to treat pain. However, surprising new research shows that something as simple as music could provide relief. A study had 143 participants listen to music while following the melodies and identifying incorrect tones. At the same time, they received pain shocks on their fingertips.
Being distracted with music-related tasks caused a decrease in pain, even more so among participants who had high levels of anxiety about pain. Becoming engaged in an activity could very well be a useful strategy for people suffering from pain, which may prove itself useful when pain medication doesn’t entirely do the trick. Here’s a quick look at seven common pain myths—and facts.
Myth: Babies don’t feel pain
Fact: Both children and infants do feel pain. The belief that infants don’t feel pain because their nervous system is immature led to circumcisions being performed without anesthesia. However, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a recent statement on circumcision, stating that the procedure is well tolerated with appropriate pain management.
Unfortunately, kids in hospital receive infrequent pain assessments, according to a study published this month in The Journal of Pain. This may be due to a false perception that pain affects children less than adults.
Myth: All pain is curable
Fact: Some chronic conditions, such as back pain, arthritis, and fibromyalgia, can continue beyond the usual recovery period, and may last for months or even years. However, those suffering from chronic pain can improve their quality of life and reduce their pain, usually with a combination of medication, physical therapy and other approaches.
Myth: Pain meds are the only way to treat pain
Fact: Pills are just one of many treatments used for pain relief. Doctors sometimes use implantable devices that stop pain signals from reaching the brain. Neurostimulators, for example, use electricity to decrease pain. A procedure called facet joint denervation uses radio waves to burn away pain nerves. Relaxation techniques such as yoga, tai chi, meditation and deep breathing reduce stress, which could relieve headaches, according to the Mayo Clinic. And new researchshows that acupuncture relieves pain slightly better than placebo.
Myth: Women have a higher pain tolerance than men
Fact: When asked to rate their pain on a scale of one to 10, women consistently pick a higher number, new research from the Stanford School of Medicine shows. “It’s still not clear if women actually feel more pain than men do,” senior study author Atul Butte said in a news release, “but they’re certainly reporting more pain than men do.” These reports included a wide variety of ailments. “No matter what the disease, women appear to report more-intense level of pains than men do,” he said.
Myth: Pain in the breast can’t be cancer
Fact: Although it’s true that breast cancer is often painless, this doesn’t mean that painful lumps cannot be cancerous. “The most common symptom of breast cancer is a new lump or mass. A mass that is painless, hard, and has irregular edges is more likely to be cancerous, but breast cancers can be tender, soft, or rounded. They can even be painful,” according to the American Cancer Society. Any breast changes, including new lumps or masses, should be checked by the appropriate health care professional.
Myth: Pain medication is always addictive
Fact: Although 20 percent of Americans have reported misuse of prescription medication, “the overwhelming majority put the pills away with no lasting harm”according to WedMD. However, taking painkillers as prescribed—and communicating your response to it to your doctor—is recommended. Increasing your dose on your own without consulting with your doctor can result in addiction or even overdose. However, taking less medicine than prescribed may lead to unnecessary pain.
Myth: No pain, no gain
Fact: Although a fitness program can sometimes cause muscle soreness the following day, actual pain during physical activity is a problem—and if something hurts, you may very well be doing an exercise incorrectly. To reduce your risk of injury or overtraining, make sure to vary your activities and to increase your intensity gradually. If weight training is a part of your workout routine, you’ll want to make sure to alternate days you work certain muscles or body parts to avoid overuse injuries.