GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. — Chronic pain afflicts millions of Americans and many have learned to live with it. 

We're looking at the evolution of treatment and how it's helping many people cope effectively with their chronic pain. 

When a patient is living with chronic pain, they don’t necessarily look sick.

They may be putting on a brave face to disguise the real pain they are feeling inside. 

"People with chronic pain feel a lot of stigma about having pain still or that they should be over or should be better…or people don’t understand," Doctor Isaac Marsolek of HealthPartners said. "And it can be really challenging, and they start feeling, 'Is it in my head? Am I just making this up?'"

Chronic pain is often defined as any pain lasting more than 12 weeks. Dr. Marsolek specializes in pain management. 

"Part of what we want to do is help people understand that this is physiological changes, this isn’t something being made up, it’s very real and very painful," Dr. Marsolek said. 

Chronic pain symptoms are unique to each individual, so it’s not always clear when you should seek professional help.

"[When] it’s really starting to impact your roles with really important relationships in your life, your job and functional things. Then it’s probably worthwhile to see your doctor," Dr. Marsolek said. 

Treatment for chronic pain can come from many sources. 

Pain management has a multi-disciplinary approach which can involve physicians, psychologists, physical therapists and occupational therapists. 

Chronic pain graphic
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The goal of chronic pain treatment is to reduce pain and improve functions. 

"[We] really try to promote the fact that movement is so essential to feeling better, and then having that person figure out what is actually the right thing for them," Dr. Marsolek said. 

Dr. Marsolek says the most rewarding part of his work is when a patient makes the transition from relying on other people and the health care system to taking ownership and feeling empowered they have the tools and skills to manage their pain on their own.

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