When we’re not feeling well, our natural tendency is to turn to our doctor for help. When it comes to chronic pain, this can be a bad idea because doctors don’t know how to help you. A recent survey of medical school curriculums across the U.S. found that, on average, physicians receive less than two hours of training about pain in medical school. The journals they read and the continuing education seminars they attend are similarly lacking. A recent survey of physicians who practice at academic medical centers, who would be expected to have access to the best training, found that only 34% felt they were competent to treat pain.
On a daily basis, physicians are seeing patients they know they do not know how to help. Forty percent of medical visits involve patients with chronic pain. Into this knowledge gap step the pharmaceutical company representatives, who oversell the benefits of their wares while minimizing or completely hiding the dangers.
Oxycodone and Hydrocodone, powerful synthetic opioids, were aggressively peddled to doctors as nearly addiction-proof medications even though they are in fact highly addictive even when taken by medical patients as directed. Millions have become addicted and hundreds of thousands have died of overdoses. Still, most doctors continue to believe that n medical patients do not become addicted when the medications are taken as directed. Pharmaceutical companies also promoted Vioxx, a nonsteroidal, anti-inflammatory drug, as safe when they knew that the drugs could cause heart problems. Estimates of how many patients have died from Vioxx during the years it remained on the market range from 50,000 to 500,000 patients. Doctors continue to widely prescribe a medication that works with similar mechanisms, Celebrex (celecoxib).
If you’re in chronic pain, the following types of health care providers are more likely to help you find relief: acupuncturists, biofeedback practitioners, chiropractors, massage therapists, physical therapists, psychotherapists, nutritionists, naturopaths and doctors who practice functional medicine.