Pain is the single most common reason for patients to seek medical care. The specialty of pain medicine is concerned with the prevention, evaluation, diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation of painful disorders.

Chronic pain is a pain that persists and is often defined as a pain that lasts more than three months. A 2011 survey by the Institute of Medicine indicates that 116 million Americans experience some type of chronic pain.

Therefore, it is important that the patient and physician work together to treat chronic pain.

In order to be successful in treating chronic pain, I have found that patients who follow these ABC(s) to manage their chronic pain have less anxiety and fear regarding their treatment.
Take my advice, and follow these ABC(s):
A Ask questions. Try to understand as much as you can about your diagnosis and what causes your pain. It is important to understand what your medications are treating and the details of your physical therapy.
If physical therapy has been prescribed for you, ask your physical therapist about your home exercises. Make sure your physical therapist demonstrates how to perform all of your exercises correctly. Doing an exercise improperly can cause more pain. Be sure you understand how to perform all of the exercises in your home exercise program before you are discharged from therapy.

Ask about the side effects of your medications. Make sure you understand how to take the medication.

Let your doctor know if you are supplementing your prescribed medications with over the counter medications. For example, your doctor might give you a prescription for an anti-inflammatory medication and you might be taking an over the counter anti-inflammatory. In most cases, you should not take both medications. This is why it is important to provide your physician with a list of the over the counter medications you are taking.
B Be Complaint.
Don't double up on medications. Don' t mix medications. Although, it might be tempting to take your spouse's or a friend’s medications, this can be very dangerous.  Mixing medications or doubling up on them can result in dangerous interactions. This may lead to respiratory depression or even death.
C Come to follow-up appointments. Too often I have experienced that a patient will not keep their follow-up appointment when the patient is on a stable dose of medication or on an exercise program that works.   They typically say they missed their appointment because they were feeling better. After years of pain, some patients they don't return until they have an extreme exacerbation of pain. Sometimes, I don't see them for a couple of years after they experience initial pain relief.
When asked why they failed to return, the usual answer is “I was doing fine so I waited until I starting hurting really bad to return.” After we talk, I usually discover that in the intervening time, they experienced some mild exacerbations of pain, but they waited until it was severe to return for follow-up.
Just as a person with diabetes or heart disease needs to keep their follow-up appointments during stable times to monitor their medications and their overall well being so does the patient with chronic pain. The goal is to control the patient’s pain not to have to start over with a new plan every time they are seen. 

When some of these patients return for follow-up "they hurt all over."  I tell them together we could have taken steps to avoid this type of severe exacerbation of pain had they come to their follow-up-appointment.

Keeping your follow-up appointment increases the odds of having better control of your chronic pain.

Make the effort to adhere to these ABC(s) to manage your chronic pain.

This article is not meant to give or replace valuable medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. It is designed for educational purposes. If you have questions or would like to request a future topic, email

©2012 Winifred Bragg, MD. All Rights Reserved.

Author's Bio: 

Winifred Bragg, MD is the CEO of the Spine and Orthopedic Pain Center, and is also a keynote speaker and author of Knockoutpain(R):Secrets to Maintain a Healthy Back.
She has taught thousands why staying strong and maintaining a strong mental toughness are essential to overcoming adversities. She has been featured on NBC, ABC, FOX and CBS news television segments.
Dr. Bragg delivers powerful messages on the importance of maintaining a positive attitude and a commitment to self-improvement as key elements to succeed.