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Chronic pain comes in many forms. There’s the widespread muscle pain of fibromyalgia, the inflamed joints that come with rheumatoid arthritis, residual pain from injuries, and so many other kinds – and such pain is unfortunately common. Experts estimate that as many as 40% of Americans have some form of chronic pain, with the CDC reporting that 8% suffer from severe, or “high-impact” pain. Still, despite its prevalence, appropriate treatments remain scarce.

Faced with the challenges created by chronic pain, how should doctors and patients respond? Most doctors recommend a multi-modal approach to manage chronic pain. Such an approach is necessitated both by the complexity of these conditions, as well as by legal barriers and the criminalization of chronic pain patients and their doctors. These laws are designed to prevent drug abuse, but for patients newly deprived of their established treatment regimen, they are ultimately a punishment; they also prevent doctors from exercising their medical discretion when working with patients they know well.

How does combining multiple forms of treatment and support patients with chronic pain? The basic goal behind this approach is to help patients address the problem from multiple angles so that they can find relief from both physical pain and the mental distress that constant pain can cause despite restricted access to preferred treatments. These 4 approaches form the backbone of today’s multimodal pain relief and offer varying degrees of relief depending on the patient and the underlying health condition.

Modern Medication

For most people with chronic pain, the first line of treatment if some form of medication, whether that’s an over-the-counter pain reliever like Tylenol or Advil or, for those with more severe pain, prescription medications like morphine and codeine. Long-term use of pain medication can pose some health risks, including gastrointestinal problems, but for many patients, taking a traditional pain medication allows them the relief and clarity to take advantage of other pain management strategies, such as exercise and meditation.

Natural Supplements

Not everyone is comfortable taking conventional pain medication, while others may not get sufficient relief from such treatments. Whatever the reason they turn to natural supplements, though, many find them to be a critical part of their pain management plan. In particular, many chronic pain patients use CBD to promote relaxation and recovery, enabling them to engage in more physical activity and improving sleep quality.

Adaptive Strategies

Sometimes managing chronic pain has less to do with changing one’s body and more to do with changing the environment. That might mean using a cane for stability or a wheelchair to minimize joint pain, or using adaptive tools like jar openers and shower chairs to make daily activities easier. Some people with chronic pain also use service dogs to help with daily activities, such as fetching items, opening doors, and as support for mobility. Such dogs need to be specially trained and can be expensive, but those who use them consider them to be a lifeline.

Psychological Approaches

We tend to think of pain as a physical condition, but the fact is that it has significant psychological elements as well. For example, stress is known to make chronic pain worse. Reducing stress, however, not only relieves some degree of physical pain, but it can also make it easier to manage what pain patients do experience. Learning relaxation strategies, including meditation, breathing techniques, and mindfulness can also help patients manage their chronic pain.

Facing A Complex Problem

Chronic pain may be common, but overall, it’s poorly understood and that’s part of why it’s so difficult to treat. Luckily, through the work of patient advocates and committed doctors, patients increasingly are able to access a combination of treatments that provide relief and let them enjoy their favorite activities. Progress is slow, but it continues apace.

2 Comments

  1. Gravatar for Stacey
    Stacey

    Hello,

    As a person with chronic pain, I want to say that most of the modalities being pushed do NOT work for debilitating intractable chronic pain. Our government is making people suffer needlessly and the media is helping to push this agenda of treating people in pain as addicts. We are NOT suffering from a mild backache, most are suffering from severely painful diseases or injuries. We have people with Cancer who are getting NOTHING for pain as well as people with diseases such as Multiple Sclerosis, Lyme, Chronic Pancreatitis, Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome, Peripheral Neuropathy, IC, Eyers Danlos Syndrome, and many more. Some have taken their lives as they could not handle living in severe pain 24/7 and many more have plans in place to take their lives. Oregons assisted suicides have risen by 33% all due to untreated chronic pain! No one will listen to us, many do not go to the E.R. any longer for help when their disease is flaring up and their pain is out of control because they know they will be met with disdain and treated less than human. What is happening is unethical and wrong on many levels. Less than 5% of chronic pain patients get addicted. We do NOT get high from taking our medication for pain (if we are lucky enough to have a Dr who cares and is willing to treat us) as the medication is doing all it can do to relieve or ease the pain. I did not go to the E.R. for over 4 years with my dying pancreas, when the pain just became too much to tolerate any longer I finally went to find out I had stage 3C colon cancer. Had I felt comfortable enough to go to the E.R. for help they could have caught this horrible cancer earlier. We feel like we can no longer count on the very people who are trained to help us. This is NOT the exception to the rule it is now the norm and it has created a huge mistrust with the Dr/patient relationship. Drs are terrified of the DEA kicking their door down and arresting them if they treat their patients the way they should be treated. This is a witch hunt on doctors who are highly trained to treat people in pain who are being told how to treat pain patients by meddling politicians who have absolutely NO business in our Drs offices and certainly not in our care. Will YOU be able to watch your loved one struggle in agony or die in horrible pain needlessly? How about watching them take their life due to untreated pain? People who have set on task forces to come up with this torture are making money hand over fist on patients suffering, can you say CONFLICT OF INTEREST? This has NOTHING to do with saving anyone and everything to do with select individuals making themselves rich by forcing people with debilitating pain to suffer needlessly! This is also causing a host of other health problems like high BP that can not be controlled, heart attacks, strokes and other issues due to UNTREATED debilitating PAIN! Listen up Mr Politicain we are VOTERS and we are coming for your jobs because YOU decided to make the people you WORK FOR suffer needlessly. Opiates have been used successfully for hundreds of years and the American people are being fed a big old heaping plate of bull@#*$$! Let our doctors do their jobs without fear that they will be persecuted for doing the jobs they were trained to do,...to care for the sick and dying to the best of their ability without government interference! Wake up America, EVERYONE will NEED pain care as some point in life, stand up and stop this unethical harmful mistreatment!

    1. Gravatar for Lisa
      Lisa

      AMEN TO THAT!!!!!!

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