Opioid Review: A Painless Conversation … about Pain

If you have a chronic condition or ever recovered from an injury or illness, you know how important and difficult managing pain can be. Pain management has also become a controversial topic. One reason is the current epidemic of addiction to opioid pain medications. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), over 28,000 drug overdose deaths involved an opioid in 2015.1 One of the challenges in dealing with pain is that physicians have to rely on our descriptions about the intensity of pain. Because pain is a subjective experience, it can be very hard to judge exactly how much medication a person needs.

Chronic pain, in particular, is difficult to treat. To begin with, what exactly is chronic pain?

A typical definition is pain that lasts more than 12 weeks. Its consequences can be severe, from limited mobility to a decreased enjoyment of life.

How Do I Address Pain with My Doctor?

If you’re experiencing chronic pain or if your pain medications are not working, you need to meet with your doctor. Here are some questions you might ask:

  • What exactly is the cause of my pain?
  • What type of medication is being used to treat my pain?
  • Are there any dangers to taking my pain medication? Can it be addictive?
  • How long will it take for the medication to work?
  • How long will I be taking the medication for and how will I be monitored?
  • What side effects can I expect?
  • Are there alternative ways of treating my pain?

This last bullet can refer to such treatments as acupuncture, hypnosis, massage, spinal manipulation, and yoga. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has stated, “a growing body of evidence suggests that some complementary approaches may help to manage some painful conditions.

As for which alternative treatments to try, you should start with your doctor. Nowadays, many hospitals offer a variety of alternative treatments. Your physician should be able to give you some direction on what will happen.

Along with alternative treatments, people also explore is herbal and other dietary supplements. This can be a grey area as there are literally thousands of untested products that make all kinds of claims about their efficacy. Again, talk with your doctor. Some supplements can interact with your prescription medications, while others can be misused.

What Should I Do if I’m Concerned That I or Someone I Love is Having a Problem with Addiction?

No matter how you and your doctor decide to treat it, here’s the important thing to remember: your pain needs to be controlled in a way that is safe and effective. By using safety as your starting point, you’ll be able to plan ways to lessen or eliminate your pain.

Most Recent Update: 9/30/2017

Sources:

  1. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/65/wr/mm655051e1.htm?s_cid=mm655051e1_w. Accessed 3/31/2017
  2. https://medlineplus.gov/magazine/issues/spring11/articles/spring11pg5-6.html. Accessed 3/31/2017
  3. https://nccih.nih.gov/health/pain/chronic.htm. Accessed 4/01/2017
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