The Truth about Pain: Dispelling the Myths

Categories: Education.

Some people think that pain is a natural part of aging or illness – that is a myth. There is almost always a reason for the pain and most physical pain can be managed. Learning the truth about pain and what you can do to manage your pain can help you focus on other parts of your life and enjoy your days.

The following statements and answers provide some facts about pain and pain management.

“If I tell the doctor about my pain he or she will think I’m a complainer.”
Response: It is the doctor and healthcare provider’s responsibility to work out the best way to control pain. To do this, they rely on you to tell them about your pain. They can’t do their job unless you do yours.

“Of course I have aches and pains. I’m old.”
Response: Pain is not a normal part of growing old. Pain in older adults, just like pain in any other age group, is your body’s way of telling you something needs attention. You need to talk about this with a doctor or your family caregivers so the issue can be treated.

“My father is confused. What he says doesn’t make sense, so I can’t tell whether he’s in pain or not.”
Response: Even when people are confused, oftentimes they can let you know when they are in pain. It may be helpful to look for changes in mood, activity level, body language, and facial expressions.

“I’m afraid of addiction.”
Response: Research has shown it’s very unusual for people who have pain to become addicted to pain medicines. People who have pain need to be treated, so concerns about addiction, in most cases, should not enter into the doctor’s decision to prescribe these medicines.

Some Facts about Pain

  • At least 116 million adults in the United States suffer from chronic pain.*
  • Pain is not just physical; emotional suffering such as depression, anxiety and anger often accompanies physical pain.*
  • Pain may make it difficult for you to work, sleep, maintain relationships and participate in activities.
  • One person’s pain is one person’s pain; only you can describe your pain and how it is affecting you.
  • Pain is real and something can be done to manage it.
  • Pain management involves treating you as a whole person – not just addressing your physical pain.

*Copyright 2011 by National Academy of Sciences. Relieving Pain in America: A Blueprint for Transforming Prevention, Care, Education, & Research. Committee on Advancing Pain Research, Care & Education; Institute of Medicine.


NHPCO’s Caring Connections has resources available that are part of the Live Without Pain initiative – visit

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