Help my girlfriend find a doctor in NYC who will take her chronic pain seriously.
April 21, 2009 5:59 PM   Subscribe

Help my girlfriend find a doctor in NYC who will take her chronic pain seriously.

C has had chronic joint pain her whole life. When she was a kid, her family doctor basically refused to pay attention to it. He found no obvious cause, told her to quit whining, and that was that.

She's now in her late 20s, otherwise healthy, and interested in trying to get some help for the pain — but she's worried that she's going to get the same sort of runaround again. AFAICT, it's a valid fear. The internet is full of horror stories about people with symptoms like hers who spent years getting ignored, branded as malingerers or drug-seeking junkies, or just told to suck it up, and I can't blame her for not wanting to go through all that if she can help it.

It would be really awesome if someone could recommend a doctor in or around New York City who's knowledgeable about chronic pain and inclined to take it seriously. (She lives in Greenpoint and works in midtown Manhattan, but an inconvenient doc with a clue is better than nothing.) Barring that, advice on finding such a doctor would be pretty awesome too.
posted by nebulawindphone to Health & Fitness (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Does she have a primary care doctor yet? If not, that's your first step. There are certainly chronic pain specialists / pain management physicians out there, but they're unlikely to see C until medical causes of the pain have been excluded.
posted by gramcracker at 6:28 PM on April 21, 2009

She needs to see a Pain Management Specialist. They are anesthesiologists that have had special training in the area. A good internal medicine doctor would be a good start to find out the root of the problem. FWIW they may refer her for a psych consult. Just be prepared for that, especially given her history of how long she has had it and nobody has found anything. They are covering their bases by doing this. But an internist worth their weight will run some tests and start the ball rolling.
posted by 6:1 at 6:39 PM on April 21, 2009

If by some chance you don't end up finding a chronic pain specialist, maybe try Patients First for primary care. (Sorry, can't seem to find a real website for them.) My girlfriend liked them a lot, but more importantly, if I'm remembering correctly, a very skinny friend of ours was happy that they didn't just take one look at her and decide she was anorexic (which other doctors were prone to doing). So at least they might take you seriously.
posted by equalpants at 6:50 PM on April 21, 2009

I've got RPS from surgery (ie. not an "unknown" cause), and have pretty obvious symptoms. Nonetheless, it's been extremely difficult getting adequate treatment, and am regularly ignored or treated poorly by medical professionals. Being given the run-around over and over is incredibly hard to deal with emotionally -- you're forced to relive and explain your pain in detail (which is very trying), get your hopes up that finally someone will help, and then are once again let down, making the whole situation feel never ending and without escape... it really gets a person down and makes a difficult situation worse. Being treated like a junkie trying to score when you're asking for help is degrading.

I definitely second that she's got to get in to see someone who's sympathetic to the problem -- you must find a good pain specialist / clinic. Someone / some group where this is all they do. I don't have any good NYC-centric advice (I see the Wasser Clinic in Toronto), but just wanted to echo what you probably already know -- that what she's going through is very difficult and any support you can give her is surely appreciated. I'm sure that even doing some leg work and calling around for her would be appreciated because it is so hard getting turned down when you're looking for help to solve a pain problem. The more dissapointment you can act as a proxy for the better.
posted by glider at 7:16 PM on April 21, 2009

For what it's worth... sometimes Howard Stern talks on his radio show about his battle with back pain and how his doctor, Dr. Sarno, really helped him. He also has a book. I don't know if either could help, but I do know he's serious about it and recommends the doctor to others.
posted by sharkfu at 7:52 PM on April 21, 2009

Response by poster: Does she have a primary care doctor yet? If not, that's your first step. There are certainly chronic pain specialists / pain management physicians out there, but they're unlikely to see C until medical causes of the pain have been excluded.

Sorry to have been unclear — no, she doesn't yet have a primary care doc. For all we know, there is a medical cause, and a doc who's willing to take the time to be thorough about that — rather than taking a quick look and declaring it to be "all in her head" — is the first thing we're looking for.
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:01 PM on April 21, 2009

Pain Management specialist. She is inconvenient to you, but in upper Westchester, Mt. Kisco, I have had great experience with Dr. Bella Mallit of the Mt. Kisco Medical Group. She was recognized in some local publication as one of the best in Westchester. What I liked was that she was not either a drug dealer or a non-believer. Spent a lot of time asking questions and discussing symptoms as well as hoped for outcomes. She did come recommended from an orthopedist in her group who could not help other than surgery so believing the pain was not an issue. I had x-rays and MRIs to demonstrate the issue. 914.241.1050 From Midtown, take the Metro North to the Mt Kisco station. Take cab to office. Make an afternoon appointment. Go with gf to appointment and have dinner at restaurant in Mt Kisco. Take train home.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:12 PM on April 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

My primary care doctor, Dr. Brian Meehan, is, to put it mildly, freakin' fantastic. I don't have chronic pain, but I did have a couple of conditions that no doctor would take seriously for whatever reason - I guess they thought I was a young hypochondriac (or maybe they were just all jerks). In any case, he takes me seriously, understands that I know my body and I know when something's not right, and every specialist he has sent me to has been top-notch. He's not a pain specialist, but having a good primary care doctor is a good start and he's very kind and attentive.
posted by bedhead at 9:43 PM on April 21, 2009

sharkfu, for goodness's sake, recommending John Sarno isn't going to do shit. He's a quack.
posted by kldickson at 5:17 AM on April 22, 2009

Sarno -- ie. the "you're just imagining it" theory -- is definitely not very helpful.
posted by glider at 6:18 AM on April 22, 2009

This was my exact experience. I had several doctors tell me "oh, girls get this sort of thing sometimes, don't worry about it." I tried everything legal to deal with it, and it didn't help. It finally took my hands swelling up tremendously, and finding a new doctor, to get someone to take me seriously - and now I'm looking at a rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis, and waiting on the xrays to come back to see how much bone damage has been done in the 12 years since it started.

One thing that seemed to help was educating myself about the possible causes of joint pain, and making sure that I was communicating those symptoms - things like being unusually stiff in the morning, and the swelling, and the fact that it's always been both hands, both feet, etc.

By all means memail me if you want to compare symptoms in more detail. RA is much, much more common in women, and juvenile-onset is not all that rare either. If I could spare anyone the sudden tenfold increase in pain I suffered this winter, I would do anything to do so.
posted by restless_nomad at 7:18 AM on April 22, 2009

glider: "Sarno -- ie. the "you're just imagining it" theory -- is definitely not very helpful."

As I said: I've never seen the doctor nor read his book. I didn't know that was his theory on pain, I was just linking that it had helped someone else.
posted by sharkfu at 2:13 PM on April 22, 2009

Response by poster: (C had an appointment with Dr. Meehan earlier today. So far she seems pretty impressed with him — he was, sure enough, really thorough and attentive. Thanks to everyone who responded for being supportive.)
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:46 PM on April 27, 2009

« Older Fun things to do in LA via public transport   |   How to handle delicate roommate dynamics stemming... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.