If there’s one topic all people can agree on, it is chronic pain. Nobody likes it, nobody wants it, and everybody seeks to avoid it. Regardless, ongoing pain is a reality for many people, affecting over 100 million Americans. That makes pain management a high priority for the medical profession.
A class of medications known as opioids has become an increasingly common treatment for both acute and chronic pain conditions. Opioids are medications that produce effects similar to morphine. They are, in essence, powerful narcotics that present real risks for the patient in terms of addiction, abuse, and overdoses.
Prolonged use of opioids can take its toll physically and mentally, with such consequences as slowed thinking, poor judgment, constipation, and hyperalgesia (increased sensitivity to pain). In high doses, opioids have also been associated with respiratory depression and death.
Because of these risks, a new national dialogue has been established to explore ways to better treat those with chronic pain. “Chronic pain is a multifaceted problem with a range of causes and solutions. As such, it involves a multifaceted approach to treatment,” says Dr. Christolias.
Three alternative approaches
Here are some of the other methods that are currently available for treating pain:
- Customized physical therapy: A physician who specializes in physical medicine rehabilitation will work with physical therapists to optimize the correct treatment plan for each patient. Exercise has been proven to help lessen the effects of chronic pain. It helps keep the joints nimble, muscles conditioned and it strengthens body stability. Regular activity is also good for a person’s mental health.
- Non-opioid medications: In addition to anti-inflammatories, steroids, acetaminophen, local anesthetics, and muscle relaxers, there are other options that can target the nature of pain in more specific manner. These include medications that target nerve electrolyte channels (channels that allow nerves to transmit pain information), neurotransmitters (the chemicals nerves use to communicate with one another), and specific types of nerves that conduct and transmit pain. Medications are available that can effectively lessen pain by inhibiting pain pathways. The added benefit is that the risks associated with non-opioid treatments are minimal, provided patients are treated by a knowledgeable provider who takes into account their coexisting medical conditions and the possible medication interactions. Thorough, complete and comprehensive medical knowledge on the part of the doctor are paramount to a patient’s proper management of pain.
- Targeted spinal interventions: Procedures such as nerve blocks, epidural steroid injections, radiofrequency ablations (destroying pain-conducting nerves), and many other treatments throughout the length of the spine can also effectively target the source of pain. Many patients prefer injection-based and minimally invasive techniques rather than taking medications. These techniques can also be used in combination with other treatments for better pain control.
By diversifying the ways in which we treat pain, and by raising awareness of opioid alternatives, we offer new hope and better ways for patients to manage pain.
For more information on treating chronic pain, contact Fraklin Pain and Wellness Center.
Source: New York Presbetarian