Pain and Social Factors

Family Tension, Work, Weight Gain, and Sex

Some of my patients tell me how pain affects their personal lives.  Some of the most frequent complaints are as follows:  increased family tension, difficulty in performing work activities, weight gain and reduced sexual activity.  Family tension arises because pain cannot be seen and usually leaves no visible marks on the body such as an amputation or burned skin.  Family members often cannot understand why someone with pain has difficulty working, running errands, doing housework and participating in family activities. 

With regard to work, pain often causes difficulty in concentrating on both mental and physical tasks and can easily reduce job efficiency.  While physical labor may be difficult or impossible to perform, for some just sitting in one position for a period of time can significantly increase their pain.  Many patients gain weight not only because exercise is too painful, but pain also leads to immobility and reduced activity leading to boredom and eating more.  Also the reduced mobility leads to less routine walking and other activity we normally do in our daily lives, and less calories are being burned off by the body.  This loss of routine activity alone can lead to a weight gain of a pound a week.  Also many patients with pain complain of reduced sexual activity.

Family tension can be helped by a spouse or other family member coming with the patient to an appointment so the physician can adequately explain why and how the pain limits the patient.  Work activities can sometimes be more easily accomplished by orthopedic chairs and ergonomics rearranging or adjusting work devices and tools in positions that cause less physical stress to the painful areas.  Awareness that immobility leads to boredom and increased eating and dieting can reduce weight gain.  With regard to sexual activities, changing positions, alternative methods of satisfaction and creativity can help.

Of course the best way to reduce or eliminate these secondary effects of pain is to properly examine, diagnose and treat the pain condition.  When conventional or traditional treatment fails, the use of alternatives such as cold laser/light therapy, kinesio taping, iontophoresis, aquatic therapy, freeze spray and stretch, stimulation probe can reduce or eliminate pain and help resolve these other problems.