Frequently asked questions

Will my pain ever go away?

Unfortunately, there is no cure for persistent pain.  However, this does not mean that nothing can be done to improve the situation.  Pain can be controlled and it is possible to lead a full and normal life despite having pain.

What causes pain?

We would all like a straightforward answer as to why we have pain.  Unfortunately, persistent pain is much more complicated and is rarely due to just one cause.  Usually a number of different factors contribute to long-standing pain and it is important to tackle each of these to make sure your pain is as well controlled as possible.  Further information about why we get persistent pain can be found here and further information on what kind of things help can be found here.

Why can’t I just take stronger painkillers?

Strong painkillers were not designed for long-term use and often have side-effects that can be as limiting as the pain itself.  These can include drowsiness, confusion, memory problems and excessive sleeping. These side effects are usually not a problem if the medications are only taken for a short period, for example after an operation, but can be very limiting if present every day.  In addition, once you have taken a painkiller for a while your body gets used to it and it becomes less effective.  This means that greater doses are required to get the same benefits.  Unfortunately this tends to mean greater side effects.  Research studies have actually suggested that strong painkillers do not work particularly well for persistent pain anyway.  This is as persistent pain is caused by different factors to acute pain (see here for more information on the causes of persistent pain)

I’m worried that I have something seriously wrong with me.  Do I need a scan?

Persistent pain is very rarely caused by a serious underlying illness.  Most people referred to the Bury Integrated Pain Service will already have had their pain fully investigated.  However, if you are concerned that something may have been missed discuss this with your pain clinician at your appointment. If they feel that further investigations are required they will arrange these as appropriate and fully explain the findings to you.

I feel really low and depressed. Is this normal?

Pain can affect all aspects of your life and make it difficult to carry out your usual activities.  It is completely normal for this to affect your mood and most people with persistent pain will experience low mood at some point.  Talking therapies can be very helpful in improving your mood, and most people find that their mood starts to improve once they start treatment and begin to return their usual activities.

My pain can suddenly increase, particularly if I move the “wrong way”.  Are there some activities I should avoid?

Many people experience sudden, sharp or severe pain on certain movements, particularly if it is a movement or activity that they do not usually do.  Although such movements can be extremely painful, they are very rarely due to tissue damage and different people will find different movements difficult.  These types of pain are usually caused by a combination of muscles and joints not being flexible enough and over-sensitivity of the nervous system (see here for more details).  There are therefore no movements or activities that you should avoid.  In fact, avoiding certain movements can actually make the problem worse, as the body gets stiffer and more sensitive.  If a particular movement is painful, it will usually get easier if you gently get it moving and build up how much you do over time.  Your pain clinician will advise on how to best do this.

I’m worried about the future.  Am I going to get worse and worse?

Most people with persistent pain worry about things getting worse over time.  For the majority of people however, if they do the right things, their symptoms and function will get better rather than worse.  Some people get stuck in a vicious cycle (see here for further details) and can become more limited by their symptoms.  However, even then, if given the correct support and guidance most people can start and get back on track.