Opioid Review: A Painless Conversation … about Pain

There’s been a lot written over the last year about opioids and the treatment of chronic pain. But what exactly is chronic pain? According to researchers, chronic pain is usually defined as any pain lasting more than 12 weeks. In contrast, while acute pain is a normal sensation that alerts us to possible injury, chronic pain is persistent and can last for months or even longer.

Like acute pain, chronic pain can come about in many different ways, such as injury, like a back sprain, or the result of an ongoing illness. No matter how it comes about the persistence of chronic pain limits how well you’re able to get around, which can lead to a decreased enjoyment of life.

One of the reasons chronic pain has become big news is connected to the epidemic of overdose deaths related to opioid pain medications.  And those numbers are serious: per the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), over 28,000 drug overdose deaths involved an opioid in 2015.

How Do I Address Pain with My Doctor?

Because chronic pain is so debilitating, it needs to be addressed thoroughly with your doctor.  Here are a few questions you need to ask:

  • 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
  • How will I be monitored?
  • What side effects can I expect?

Along with pursuing traditional treatment for chronic pain, you may want to investigate alternative ways to deal with it. According to the National Institutes of Health “a growing body of evidence suggests that some complementary approaches, such as acupuncture, hypnosis, massage, spinal manipulation, and yoga, may help to manage some painful conditions.”

This still leaves you with the dilemma of which of these treatments you might try. The first step is to talk with your doctor about a treatment option you’re interested in. Or ask your doctor if they can suggest one or recommend a practitioner in your area. Nowadays, many hospitals offer various sorts of alternative therapies.

Along with different forms of treatment, many people explore herbal and dietary supplement. The challenge here is that there are thousands of untested products and amazing claims about all kinds of pills.  This can be a grey area. There are thousands of untested products that make all kinds of claims about their efficacy. Once 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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