Opioid addiction, abuse, and overdose are at the forefront of our national dialogue. But by casting opioids as the villain, this important conversation is missing an essential element: how best to treat the chronic pain that afflicts 100 million Americans, including many of our wounded warriors. Chronic pain is a multifaceted problem with a range of causes and solutions, not a two-dimensional condition that can only be treated with opioids.
The opioid addiction crisis has spawned a fundamental misunderstanding about pain management. When mentioning pain management, many think that all we can offer people in pain are addictive opioids that destroy lives.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
For people in pain, opioids are just one leg of a chair. The other three legs — which are often missing from the debate on opioid addiction — can support equal weight if the right medical expertise and infrastructure are in place.
The American Society of Anesthesiologists calls this approach multimodal analgesia. It’s the foundation for pain management specialists around the country. It is also part of legislation to be reviewed by the House and Senate Opioid Conference Committee.
For chronic pain, the first leg of the chair is non-addictive over-the-counter pain medications, such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen. Often overlooked, these are remarkably effective for many people and can be available in higher doses by prescription. But they don’t work for everyone, nor do they provide the kind of extended relief that some patients need in order to function.
For them, an approach called neuromodulation can help. It uses a device akin to a pacemaker that is embedded in the body. The device sends electrical pulses that interrupt or mask pain signals that travel to and from the brain.
A third leg of the chair involves mind/body regimens. Once the domain of non-Western medicine, these are today grounded in abundant clinical evidence. In this approach, specially trained therapists teach patients how to live with chronic pain that is bearable but isn’t entirely treatable with over-the-counter medicines or neuromodulation. Commonly used mind/body techniques include cognitive behavioral therapy, graded activity and exposure therapy, and biofeedback.
For a diversified approach to pain management, contact Franklin Pain and Wellness Center.
Source: STAT News