7 Myths About Chronic Pain

Doctor William C Lloyd Healthgrades Medical Reviewer
Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Written By Chris Illiades, MD on September 26, 2021
  • Man with back pain
    Chronic pain is real.
    Chronic pain is pain lasting more than three months. It feels different from short-term pain and usually needs different treatment. But, chronic pain myths can get in the way of finding relief from the pain. These include the myth that you just have to live with it or that people with chronic pain are weak. The truth is chronic pain is real. Don’t let chronic pain myths keep you from getting the treatment you need. Start by learning the truth about common myths.
  • woman-holding-back-of-neck
    Myth 1: Chronic pain means you have an injury.
    Some types of chronic pain result from an injury or medical condition. This may be the case if you have arthritis or cancer, for instance. But in many cases, chronic pain continues long after any injury or damage has healed. The pain no longer is a reminder that some part of your body has an injury. Instead, it just hurts. This can happen because, over time, pain can change the way your brain reacts. It can become overly sensitive to pain and even simple movements or stress can hurt.
  • woman-with-headache
    Myth 2: People with chronic pain just can't tolerate pain.
    Chronic pain is very real. It can be severe even when there is no obvious injury. Chronic pain causes changes in your brain that have nothing to do with how well you tolerate pain. Long-term pain causes the pain centers in your brain to go on high alert. Your brain may start to think normal signals coming from the areas where you once had pain are actually pain signals—when they're not. Simply moving can cause pain, as can just thinking or worrying about pain. With chronic pain, you might feel like the pain controls you.
  • Black woman hugging her knees
    Myth 3: You need to rest to manage chronic pain.
    The reality is you need to take an active approach to relieve chronic pain. When you avoid activities that cause pain, you lose your ability to fight back. Your muscles and bones become weaker. The inactivity can lead to weight gain. You may become depressed or anxious from loneliness and boredom. All of these things make pain worse. That’s why a big part of chronic pain treatment is exercise and activity to reduce stress and tension.
  • variety-of-pills-in-hand
    Myth 4: Taking medication for chronic pain will make you a drug addict.
    Opioids are some of the drugs doctors use to treat chronic pain. With time, you may develop a tolerance, meaning you need higher doses to get relief. Opioids can also cause physical dependence. You get sick if you stop them suddenly. It's true that tolerance and dependence can lead to abuse and addiction. If you use opioids exactly as directed by your doctor, your chance of becoming addicted is low. However, opioids are not the only drugs for chronic pain. If you have a history of drug or alcohol abuse, other medications may be a better choice.
  • woman receiving massage
    Myth 5: Drugs are the only treatment that works for chronic pain.
    Drugs can be an important part of treatment. Options include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), opioids, antidepressants, muscle relaxants, anti-seizure medications, and injections to block pain signals. But, there are also other choices for easing chronic pain. Electrical nerve stimulation is one. Physical therapy and training in posture and body movement can help. So can ice, heat and massage. Often the best approach is to use different options to manage your pain so you can keep up your daily activities. Work with your doctors to find what works best for you.
  • man and woman meditation together outside
    Myth 6: Natural health options don't exist for chronic pain.
    Many types of complementary and alternative therapies may help ease chronic pain. Meditation, relaxation therapy, and hypnosis may help. Talk therapy is another option. Medical marijuana may help with cancer or nerve pain. Chiropractic care may help with chronic neck or back pain. Acupuncture may help pain due to arthritis. Mindful exercises like yoga and tai chi can ease stress through movement. Natural substances like butterbur, feverfew, magnesium, and coenzyme Q10 may help migraine-related chronic pain. Just remember: "Natural" does not always mean safe. Check with your doctor first to make sure a treatment is OK for you.
  • doctor-examining-patients-shoulder
    Myth 7: Doctors don't know how to treat chronic pain.
    Your primary care doctor may be able to treat chronic pain. However, you might benefit from seeing a doctor who is also a chronic pain specialist. These doctors have extra training and certification to treat chronic pain. Chronic pain doctors come from fields like neurology, anesthesiology, and physical medicine and rehabilitation. Ask your primary care doctor if you should see one of these experts.
Myths About Chronic Pain | Chronic Pain Relief

About The Author

  1. Chronic Pain: In Depth. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. https://nccih.nih.gov/health/pain/chronic.htm
  2. Physical Therapist’s Guide to Chronic Pain Syndromes. American Physical Therapy Association. http://www.moveforwardpt.com/SymptomsConditionsDetail.aspx?cid=dd79c11d-9ac3-42cc-bcc2-2edd5079a57a
  3. Specialty of Chronic Pain Management. American Society of Regional Anesthesia and Pain Medicine. https://www.asra.com/page/44/the-specialty-of-chronic-pain-management
  4. Treatment Options for Chronic Pain. American Society of Regional Anesthesia and Pain Medicine. https://www.asra.com/page/46/treatment-options-for-chronic-pain
  5. Types of Chronic Pain. American Society of Regional Anesthesia and Pain Medicine. https://www.asra.com/page/45/types-of-chronic-pain
Was this helpful?
Last Review Date: 2021 Sep 26
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.