Weekly nuggets of pain science news and insight, usually 100-300 words, with the occasional longer post. The blog is the “director’s commentary” on the core content of PainScience.com: a library of major articles and books about common painful problems and popular treatments. See the blog archives or updates for the whole site.

I’ve tried “everything”

Paul Ingraham

Studies showNot really. that most people who say they’ve “tried everything” have actually tried 4.6 treatments (three of which were probably kind of silly anyway).

This was actually one of the first insights I ever had into rehab for stubborn injuries and pain problems, way back in the early 2000s when I was just a novice massage therapist. I started to notice that desperate patients would often claim that they had “tried everything,” but then list only two or three things when encouraged to be specific. I’ve seen this countless times since.

People seem to feel that just about anything beyond a single second opinion constitutes an extraordinary effort to get professional help, when the reality is that a tough problem could easily need a half dozen opinions or more. Even just trying one alternative therapy can trigger the “everything” claim: “I’ve tried doctors… chiropractors… everything!” And inconvenient but promising treatment options are often conspicuously missing from “everything,” things like adequate resting,People always think they’ve tried resting, but they’ve rarely tried it enough. or sleep hygiene, or aquatic therapy.

For what it’s worth, people who have truly worked their way through a substantial list of well-prioritized treatment experiments are super rare. This realization was one of the seeds of my work here: my earliest goal was to give people a more realistic and useful definition of “everything,” by reviewing all the options.

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