Haven’t Got Time For The Pain?
Chronic pain is manageable, but don’t expect a quick, easy fix
Keep on trucking.
For some, it’s a motivational slogan for life. For others, a reluctant mantra. Francisco Fantauzzi, MD, who practices Family Medicine at St. Joseph's/Candler Primary Care located at Plaza D, sometimes hears it from his patients in regards to their chronic pain.
“Some of my patients will say at first that they have decided to put up with their pain, to live with it,” Dr. Fantauzzi says.
On the other hand, a few patients are hoping to stop their pain quickly with medication. But neither the quiet suffering nor the one-and-done approach to pain will resolve this common and treatable issue.
“Different patients naturally have different expectations,” Dr. Fantauzzi says. “But we can design a plan to best deal with your individual pain.”
A Part Of Life
“Sooner or later, we are all going to experience some kind of chronic pain for reason X, Y or Z,” Dr. Fantauzzi says. “It is a part of life.”
Dr. Fantauzzi notes that chronic pain is secondary to inflammation, which can be caused by a variety of conditions, including arthritis, fibromyalgia and diabetes. Or it can be a result of modifiable lifestyle habits such as not eating a balanced diet and not getting proper sleep.
“Those are just a few of the ways that we can start getting aches and pains,” Dr. Fantauzzi says. “It mainly comes in our back or in our joints. But there are all kinds of pain syndromes, and chronic pain is very common.”
Where To Start
Dr. Fantauzzi will often prescribe non-opioid pain medications like acetaminophen or ibuprofen as he tries to discover the primary source of the pain.
“Giving medication for pain is only a part of treatment, often a small part,” he says. “You have to find out exactly what is causing the pain and how to address it.”
In developing a pain management plan with a patient, Dr. Fantauzzi will sometimes consult with the experts in medication management, as well as physical therapists, orthopedic physicians or neurologists, depending on the patient’s symptoms.
“This is often a team effort,” he says.
Physicians cannot always make a patient completely pain free. But Dr. Fantauzzi can help patients decrease the pain to progressively lower levels, where they feel as close to normal as possible. This new reality is actually a step up for those just living with pain, as some patients expect that they must do. But for some patients—not many, Dr. Fantauzzi says—a long-term plan can be the hardest pill to swallow.
“When I explain the benefits of having a management plan, most patients are very open to it,” Dr. Fantauzzi says. “But not everyone likes the idea of seeing me on a regular basis, or having an ongoing discussion and updates about their medication. But that is how we can best deal with the pain. Also, part of my job is to make sure there is no potential for abuse.”
The treatment plans for some patients may involve monthly checkups with Dr. Fantauzzi. Or when it’s a team effort, as he says above, it may mean visits with other specialists.
“It would be great if patients could simply tell us their needs and we could fulfill them immediately, but unfortunately treatment doesn’t work like fast food,” Dr. Fantauzzi says. “It will probably take some time and planning to get your pain under control.”
Dr. Fantauzzi hopes that patients will be encouraged by the smart, realistic approach to truly treating chronic pain.
“You can always come to us,” he says. “We will address your pain in the way that works best for you.”