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Chronic Pain Management for Men

Pain Management for Men

By Mel Insh

There are many conditions that can result in chronic pain in men, including chronic pelvic pain, cancer-related pain, osteoarthritis, migraines and back pain. After a complete workup to determine causes of pain, treatment becomes the focus.  Treatment is vital in all cases, since pain interferes greatly with one’s quality of life, causing suffering of the physical, emotional, social and even spiritual dimensions. Approximately one in every five older Americans takes pain medication regularly; pain is the most often heard complaint from older Americans to their doctors.

 

Pain: Differences between Men and Women

While pain related to cancer and other conditions is not gender-specific, recent research has shown that there are important differences in the way women and men perceive, cope with and report pain. Many researchers assert that women have a generally lower pain threshold than men, and seek more healthcare for pain, than men do.  Despite the differences, research has also shown that women are more likely than men to be under treated for pain. Moreover, women are more likely to have their pain treated with sedatives, while men are given pain medication more often.

Chronic pain in men

Since the late 1990s, public health advocates have made a concerted effort to incorporate natural approaches in the treatment of pain, including exercise and yoga. Natural approaches may help to minimize the side effects of opioid narcotics which can include reduction in testosterone.  The side-effects of medications like aspirin, ibuprofen and NSAIDs are plentiful, and can include gastrointestinal bleeding and pain. For older adults and those with gastrointestinal issues, acetaminophen is often the first-line treatment of choice, while for serious and chronic pain, opioid drugs like codeine and morphine may be prescribed.

If you are undergoing pain, it is vital that you see your doctor for treatment. Some common barriers to pain management include fear of growing addicted to medication, losing one’s sobriety, and procrastination. Many patients also experience unnecessary pain by failing to take pain medication as prescribed, and attempting to “get by” without taking any medication.

Pain is one of the most treatable symptoms and in most cases, it can be significantly reduced or eliminated, so don’t be afraid to report it. Try to give your doctor as much information as you can, including what makes your pain better or worse, and what medications you are currently taking. It helps to keep a pain journal, in which you should score your pain on a 0-10 scale. The journal should list the location of your pain, the type of pain, whether or not the pain travels throughout the body or stays in one spot, and how much pain you are feeling. Be as specific as you can with your doctor (is the pain sharp, or dull? does it sting, burn, or feel like a small electric shock?).

Your doctor may decide that you you need an opioid; if so, it is important to follow his/her instructions, since patients who are inadequately treated often start self-medicating. If you are taking opioids, ask your doctor about extended-release opioids, which last for multiple hours and do not cause the patient to feel high or altered. As mentioned, you and your physician should anticipate any side-effects and consider natural pain relievers as well, including holistic-focused activities such as yoga, mindful meditation and Tai-Chi.  Educating yourself about chronic pain is a key part of tackling chronic pain issues with your physician.

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