Give Your Doctor Details. “If a patient doesn’t bring pain up as priority, the physician may not focus on it,” saysYvonne C. Lee, MD, assistant professor of medicine at Brighamand Women’s Hospital in Boston and co-author of an October2011 editorial on pain in The Rheumatologist. “Tell him where the pain is and what it prevents you from doing – for instance, ‘I can’t brush my hair, or shower.’ And if it doesn’t make you focus too much on pain, keep a pain diary so that you can go to appointments informed.”

Ask About CNS Meds. “A major breakthrough is the use of antidepressant medications such as duloxetine [Cymbalta] for chronic [pain] conditions,” says Dr. Borenstein. “Chemicals called norepinephrine and serotonin populate the body’s pain-inhibition system. If you increase those chemicals, you stimulate the pain-inhibition pathways so you have less pain.”

Another breakthrough is the use of certain epilepsy drugs, such as pregabalin, brand name Lyrica, which was the first FDA-approved drug for treating fibromyalgia. “In people with fibromyalgia, it modifies the way pain signals are processed,” Dr. Borenstein says. (Learn more about fibromyalgia drugs in the Drug Guide, page 66.)

Consider A Pain Center. If you’re not getting pain relief, ask your doctor to refer you to a pain center, says Dr. Lee. “Look for a center that is multidisciplinary. You want a mix of physicians, like an anesthesiologist, a physiatrist and a psychiatrist, plus physical therapists and psychologists.”

The bottom line: Push to understand and control your pain. Don’t let it rob you of a life you love.