Pain Management

Are GPs Not Taking Chronic Pain Seriously?

There are an estimated 28 million people in the UK and 1 in 4 Americans living with chronic pain. With a variety of conditions such as Endometriosis taking an average of 8 years to get a diagnosis, are doctors dismissing pain?

A new app aims to help patients practise self care for chronic pain

GP Practices around the Leeds area encourage patients with chronic pain to use an app to manage self-care in an attempt to ‘reduce GP visits’.

‘PainSense’ provides people with a pain toolkit, in order to better understand and manage their symptoms.

app for people with chronic pain
PHOTO: YURA FRESH/UNSPLASH

Patients can share their progress with their doctor, so they can see how they are getting on.

“With what I’ve learned through the app, I can tell the doctor how I’m feeling without wasting valuable surgery time”

But why is going to the GP with chronic pain a waste of their time? People living with chronic conditions deserve the time and day of their doctors. Whilst products like this are useful, they shouldn’t be there to replace face-to-face contact.

Is it a feminist issue?

According to a recent study, it takes 4 years longer for women to receive a diagnosis with the same condition as their counterparts. But why is this?

A possible reason could be there are more male doctors than females. There are approximately 48 thousand male doctors in the UK, in comparison to just 27 thousand women.

Maybe men don’t empathise with women’s pain as much?

GPs dismissing chronic pain
PHOTO: RAW PIXELS

We spoke to 4 women to hear their GP experiences: from the shocking and downright rude to the helpful and supportive doctors.

Kali: My GP told me that I wouldn’t be able to achieve anything in life

“My (old) GP told me a few years ago I’d never function well enough to amount to much in life. So it wouldn’t be worth trying to do anything work related including my blog work. Unfortunately I can’t work a normal job, but I still do my blog work and try to be successful with it anyway.”

Laura: Every GP is different – my new doctor understands my arthritis and chronic pain

“I have had a new GP for a year (due to my other one that I had for 25+ years blaming my anaemia on accusing me of cheating on my celiac diet instead of listening to me about my female issues and I ended up having a hysterectomy).

My new GP is great so far with my pain issues. She listened and got me tested for things instead of brushing it off and saying ‘you’re going to have pain you are getting older and it’s normal’, like my previous doctor did.

Don’t get me wrong my previous doctor did listen to various joint problems and investigate. But after chronic complaints it was brushed off as natural arthritis ageing pain, due to my weight and getting older. I wasn’t looking for pain pills. Instead, I was looking for answers as to what I could do to have less pain and be more functional. I now know I have more than ‘just’ arthritis causing my pain thanks to my new GP.”

chronic pain and GPs
PHOTO: SHARON MCCUTCHEON/UNSPLASH

Leanne: My doctor said if I died, I would only have myself to blame

“My GP called me randomly to check in. I thought wow this is new! How lovely he’s just calling to check on his patients. How wrong was I!

He basically called to tell me I’ve been on steroids too long (18 years; more on then off) and that if I die who will be to blame (his exact words). I informed him that he was the professional not me and I’m not prescribing myself. By the end of the call he prescribed me – you guessed it steroids! I couldn’t believe it.”

Jenny: My GP suggested yoga will cure my gut problems

“I’ve had great difficulty getting my doctors to take my pain seriously. I have IBD and during flare ups I’ve been told to take paracetamol, which does nothing. I’ve also been told to ‘not think about it’, my problem is stress, and ‘why don’t you try yoga’.”


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