There are many myths surrounding chronic pain like vitamin B12 deficiency neuropathy, fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue; in coping with pain symptoms, it’s important to be able to separate fact from fiction. Here are some common myths you might have heard recently, and the facts.
Myth #1: Vitamin B12 is useless in coping with chronic pain.
While most healthy people don’t require extra vitamin supplements, people with chronic illnesses require vitamin supplements like vitamin B12, in addition to many other essential vitamins and minerals.
That’s because chronic pain creates an environment that inhibits vitamin B12 absorption. Symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, acid reflux, stomach ulcers, and gastritis make it difficult or impossible for you to digest vitamin B12 naturally from foods. As a result, people who suffer from pernicious anemia, fibromyalgia, or Crohn’s disease get vitamin B12 from non-dietary sources.
Additionally, vitamin B12 deficiency may be difficult to diagnose with chronic pain disorders, as many of the symptoms of fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, or rheumatoid arthritis mask important clues that indicate low vitamin B12 levels.
Symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency may include:
- Painful tingling in the hands and feet
- Frequent numbness
- Partial paralysis
- Sore tongue and mouth, including burning sensation
- Brain fog
- Difficulty walking
- Decreased motor skills
- Stomach cramps
- Acid reflux
Myth #2: If your doctor can’t find anything medically wrong, you must be a hypochondriac.
Chronic pain does not always result from a specific cause or visible injury. With fibromyalgia and migraines, for example, chronic pain occurs in the brain as part of a neurological disorder. Similarly, neuropathy from vitamin B12 deficiency is caused by damaged nerve cells and reduced red blood cell distribution.
Myth #3: Only drug addicts use narcotic painkillers.
If your doctor prescribes narcotics for chronic pain relief, then use them as directed. There is no harm or shame in using painkillers, as long as you follow your doctor’s orders. That doesn’t mean they are without side effects, so it’s important to educate yourself about the use of prescription painkillers.
Myth #4: Painkillers are addicting.
Used as directed, and under the guidance of your physician, there is no reason why you will become addicted to opioids, nor should you need to increase the dose in order to sustain the same amount of pain relief.
Myth #5: If over-the-counter (OTC) painkillers help, then the pain can’t be that bad.
Popping OTC painkillers can be dangerous to your liver, kidneys, and digestive system. Don’t ignore a serious medical condition by self-treating with pain relievers- always consult your doctor when chronic pain occurs.
Myth #6: Alternative treatments for chronic pain are a waste of time and money.
Chronic pain management requires a multi-pronged approach including medications, stress reduction, and physical therapy. Today, integrated medicine incorporates alternative approaches like acupuncture, vitamin B12, herbs, yoga, and meditation in coping with chronic pain.
Myth #7: If you can’t cope with the pain, then you must be weak or lazy.
This is a particularly hurtful myth that affects many chronic pain sufferers, and it sometimes prevents people from seeking help. Trying to ignore chronic pain doesn’t make you brave or strong- it increases your chances of suffering from depression and anxiety down the line.
Myth #8: Your chronic pain is just like my pain.
Different people feel pain differently, just like one person may cope with pain differently from you. That doesn’t mean that your pain symptoms are worse or stronger than others’ are. Common terms used to describe pain vary from dull aching and throbbing to burning or electric-like pain symptoms.
Myth #9: You shouldn’t let pain slow you down.
So you’re feeling well today? That’s no reason to run the marathon. Trying to “do it all” creates stress and decreases the number of good days you enjoy between chronic pain flare-ups. Pace yourself, even if you think you don’t have to.
Myth #10: Exercising is one of the worst things you can do during a fibromyalgia flare-up.
Current research indicates that moderate exercise is perfectly safe for people with fibromyalgia or other chronic pain, and actually relieves pain by producing endorphins. The trick is to choose something that doesn’t wear you out or cause sore muscles. Good low impact exercises for chronic pain sufferers are swimming, walking, tai chi, and yoga.
Myth #11: No pain, no gain.
Exercise doesn’t have to be painful in order to strengthen your muscles, nor should it cause burning sensations. On the contrary, pain is a sign that you’re doing it wrong and need to modify your workout.
Myth #12: For chronic pain, bed rest is mandatory.
Actually, lying around in bed all day only worsens conditions like chronic backaches. While it’s important to rest after suffering an injury, too much inactivity exacerbates muscular pain. As a rule, always try to get up and stretch your muscles, with your doctor’s permission.
Myth #13: Chronic pain is just a part of growing older.
Chronic pain should not be tolerated as a necessary side effect of aging, and it’s important that your doctor understands that. Many ailments like arthritis, vitamin B12 deficiency neuropathy, and fatigue are easily treatable, regardless of age.
Myth #14: Only old people suffer from chronic pain.
Many young adults and adolescents suffer from chronic pain resulting from celiac disease, fibromyalgia, migraines, and vitamin B12 deficiency neuropathy.
Myth #15: You can usually tell somebody who’s in chronic pain just by looking at him.
Chronic pain is an invisible illness- people with fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue may put on a brave face, but that doesn’t mean they’re not suffering inside. Don’t gauge somebody else’s pain on a scale of one to ten just by observing them- ask them, instead.
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Image: Marco Bellucci