How do you feel when you get out of bed each morning? In great shape and ready to face the day or do you have an underlying niggle, a pain you've never been able to address? Unfortunately, for many of us it is the latter. What do you tend to do about it? If your answer is nothing, then you are one of many people who are ignoring regular pain. New research from Nuffield Health has found that 59 per cent (over 30 million UK adults) are living with unnecessary pain rather than turning to a qualified professional, such as a doctor or physiotherapist, for advice.
As a GP these figures are concerning, but not surprising. As a nation, we pride ourselves on our strong attitude to dealing with adversity - be it not complaining about a bad meal or in this case living with daily chronic pain - the bottom line is we need to talk more. The findings reveal that despite more than three quarters of those in pain admitting it has a negative impact upon their everyday lives, we're as likely to turn to Google as visit a trained professional to treat our complaint. This rises to five times as likely for those who aged 16-24 years old.
Why do we choose to suffer in silence? The research tells a similar story as one in five made their pain worse by failing to take appropriate advice or action. Nearly a quarter of people didn't raise the issue as they thought the pain would heal itself and one in five didn't want to trouble their doctor. Why are we discouraged from speaking to trained health professionals? I often speak to physiotherapists who frequently see patients who have done more harm than good by trying to deal with it themselves or by not doing anything at all.
Here in the UK, we're lucky to have access to both a range of doctors and other qualified health professionals yet it seems we're not reaching for their help when we need it most. But when is it best to visit your doctor and take the query further? As a GP I recommend that pain or injury should begin to heal around two to four weeks after the initial incident and throughout this period, anti-inflammatory pain killers (such as Ibuprofen) may be appropriate. Following this, if it's not improving, then we'd recommend seeing a physiotherapist for example, particularly if the injury is worsening.
The long term implications of failing to take this initial step, alongside aggravating the problem, can result in an over-reliance on pain medication when basic exercises or treatment could be the solution - half of us are reaching for over-the-counter medication at the first sign of pain and over a third of adults even claim they are dependent on painkillers.
Prevention is always better than cure - for example, common complaints such as Osteoarthritis (otherwise known in the trade as "wear and tear" arthritis) can be prevented by building strong thigh muscles to protect yourself from knee issues (try to increase the amount of walking you complete each week) and by making a conscious effort to keep your Body Mass Index to a sensible level, ideally between the 18-25 category. As you would expect, the combination of a lighter weight alongside strong muscles will result in less stress and strain upon your bones.
So don't take your pain into the New Year with you. With treatment and advice readily available, why don't you talk to a doctor or health professional this month and start 2014 pain free.