Few medical conditions are as challenging to treat as pain.
That’s because, unlike a sore throat or a broken bone, pain is invisible to everyone except the person experiencing it. On top of that, the severity of pain is subjective: the same condition that may mildly annoy one person could be agonizing for someone else.
Your doctor may ask you to describe your pain using a scale of faces that runs from smiling (no pain) to weeping (excruciating pain) or your provider may ask you to rate your pain on a scale of one to 10.
By using the same scale over time, you and your physician can develop a shared understanding of how you perceive pain.
“Everybody has pain at some point in life,” says Dr. Bert Fichman, who specializes in treating chronic pain at Tidelands Health Pain Management Services at Murrells Inlet.
A warning sign
Pain is the body’s way of alerting us that something is out of order. It can be neurological, tissue-related or functional. Pain can also be acute – such as when you have a sudden injury – or chronic, such as the pain associated with arthritis. Pain can also be focused or dispersed.
When it comes to speaking to a pain specialist like Dr. Fichman, it pays to come prepared to describe what you’re feeling and the path you’ve taken to find relief.
“By the time patients get to me, they’ve typically gone through physical therapy, rest, time, medications,” Dr. Fichman says. “They’re still having pain, and it’s affecting their quality of life and their function.”
Your journey is critical
While pain scales are valuable tools to establish a common language between you and your physician, Dr. Fichman says the best tool for finding a solution to your chronic pain starts with your story: what you’ve tried so far and what kind of imaging – such as X-rays or MRI scans – or other care you may have received to help build a diagnosis and treatment plan.
“You have to be systematic about it,” Dr. Fichman says. “If somebody has total body pain, that’s very different from back pain or right leg pain.”
You should also be prepared to talk about how your pain has influenced your mental health. Chronic pain can lead to anxiety or depression, which can also affect how you experience your pain, Dr. Fichman says.
Finally, Dr. Fichman says, it’s important to go into pain management with the proper expectations.
“We may not be able to get rid of pain 100 percent,” he adds, “but working together, we can often substantially reduce pain and improve quality of life.”
Dr. Bert Fichman
Pain management physician, Tidelands Health Pain Management Services
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Dr. Bert Fichman is a board-certified anesthesiologist and pain management physician who provides care at Tidelands Health Pain Management Services at Murrells Inlet.Learn More
- Albany Medical College, Albany, NY
- Bellevue Medical Center, New York University
- New York University Medical Center, obstetrics and cardiothoracic
American Board of Anesthesiology in both anesthesiology and pain management
American Board of Hospice and Palliative Medicine
Meet the Expert
Dr. Bert Fichman
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Dr. Bert Fichman is a board-certified anesthesiologist and pain management physician who provides care at Tidelands Health Pain Management Services at Murrells Inlet.