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Pain Management Programs

How do Pain Management Programs Work?

Some pain management programs may benefit the one in four people in the U.S. who suffer from pain that lasts longer than 24 hours, and chronic pain being the leading cause of disability in the country. Chronic pain is often challenging to treat effectively since the origins of the pain are sometimes not well understood. In cases where the cause of a person’s chronic pain is known, patients have to treat not only the underlying, root cause but also the pain itself as a separate entity requiring its own unique treatment methods.

There are many causes of chronic pain, including autoimmune diseases, rheumatoid arthritis, and inflammation. The “normal” aches and pains that accompany aging can be the root cause of a person’s chronic pain. For others, past injuries that didn’t heal properly, or disease can be the root cause of pain symptoms. For most patients, a combination of medications, physical and talk therapy, and lifestyle changes can offer some relief.

What are the most common causes of chronic pain?

In most cases, injuries and physical trauma are the leading causes of chronic pain. Pulled muscles, broken bones, sprains, and ligament tears can all heal improperly and lead to chronic inflammation and pain as a person ages. Once the nerves become damaged, pain becomes more intense, longer lasting, and unfortunately, persistent. When nerves are damaged, treating the underlying injury often won’t cure chronic pain. At this point, patients need a treatment regimen that will minimize the aggravation of the nerves and offer some analgesic benefits and relief. Living with severe chronic pain can severely impact a person’s quality of life and harm their mental health. Depression can increase a person’s physical pain, while chronic, physical pain symptoms can also trigger a depressive episode.

But not everyone who experiences chronic pain has had an injury that’s an obvious cause of their symptoms. For these patients, the exact causes of their pain aren’t well understood. It is believed that in these cases, pain is a result of underlying, long-term health issues. The most common physical health issues that are linked to chronic pain include the following:

  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
  • Endometriosis
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Interstitial Cystitis
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease
  • Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction (TMJ)
  • Vulvodynia
  • Arthritis

Chronic pain can happen to anyone at any age. A person does not have to experience the usual aches, pains, and stiffness of being a senior citizen to be diagnosed with chronic pain. In fact, up to 15% of children and adolescents suffer from medically unexplained cases of chronic pain.

Risk factors for developing a chronic pain condition include:

  • Being female
  • Experiencing a severe injury
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Having surgery

Other diseases can cause chronic pain in patients. Multiple sclerosis, cancer, and Parkinson’s can all cause severe muscular, bone, ligament, and nerve pain.

What are the most common treatment options for chronic pain?

When it comes to the treatment of chronic pain, the approach has two main goals – to reduce the severity of the pain, and increase the patient’s mobility or range of motion. Tackling these two fronts in the battle against chronic pain will help the patient return to their usual activities, and also protect their mental health from the emotional distresses that chronic, untreated pain can cause.

Treatment plans for chronic pain must be tailored to the individual. Pain is something extremely personal for each person who feels it. Everyone has different pain tolerance levels, and the causes, severity, and frequency of chronic pain will vary widely from one patient to the next. Plus, each patient’s goals for treatment will be different, which should inform their customized treatment plan. A young mother with chronic pain will have different goals for increasing her mobility than an empty nester in their 70s, for example. Chronic pain treatment plans are tailored to the patient, and address their symptoms and if they have any underlying health problems that may change the course or method of treatment. Medications, therapies, and lifestyle changes in any one combination may all be used to address chronic pain.

A doctor or interdisciplinary pain management team may prescribe different types of medical procedures for chronic pain, depending on a patient’s symptoms and their needs. Electrical stimulation techniques, nerve block injections, steroids, acupuncture, and in some cases, surgery to correct a prior injury may be recommended.

Common lifestyle remedies and activities that can alleviate chronic pain severity include:

  • Physical therapy
  • Massage
  • Pet, music, and art therapy
  • Talk therapy and CBT
  • Yoga and tai chi
  • Meditation

Prescription and OTC medications are also commonly used to address and alleviate chronic pain symptoms, but they come with risks, especially if a person is prescribed medications to take on a regular basis for years on end.

What are some of the common issues associated with taking medications for chronic pain?

For less severe cases of chronic pain, physicians often prescribe over-the-counter NSAIDs such as ibuprofen, aspirin, or pain relieves like acetaminophen. For more severe cases, patients may start taking opioid analgesics, codeine, or hydrocodone. Chronic pain can also be alleviated with anticonvulsants and antidepressant prescription medications, too. While these methods are often useful, they come with risks that many patients may not be aware of, or want to risk certain side-effects that are associated with conventional chronic pain medications.

For one thing, opioid derivatives are incredibly addictive. Up to 75% of people currently addicted to heroin started with a prescription opioid. In 2017, there were more drug overdose deaths related to prescription opioids in the U.S. than at any other time in history. Because of the opioid addiction crisis, doctors and their patients are subject to ever-increasing scrutiny and restrictions into how often and how much they can take these types of medications. Chronic pain patients are often subject to taking regular drug tests at pain management clinics, or they have to sign paperwork stating they won’t even drink alcohol while taking prescription opioids. Pain patients may not like being treated with suspicion for trying to alleviate their chronic pain under a doctor’s guidance.

The other issue with opioid drugs is the fact that the body builds a tolerance to the drugs quickly. Even under a doctor’s care, the body will become tolerant to a regular dose of opioid drugs. The patient may need higher and higher doses to continue effectively treating their pain. Missing a dose can result in painful withdrawal symptoms, even if a person is not mentally or emotionally addicted to an opioid. These drugs are incredibly powerful, and it can be challenging to avoid increasing tolerance levels and subsequence withdrawal symptoms.

Patients may think that by taking an OTC NSAID or acetaminophen, that they can avoid any health consequences. But that’s not entirely true. Taking NSAIDs on a regular basis is associated with an increased risk of stomach ulcers and gastrointestinal bleeding, heart attacks and strokes.  Acetaminophen can also damage the liver over time.

How do pain management programs help?

While modern medicine has made significant strides in understanding the root causes of disease and infections and how to treat them, knowledge in the arena of chronic pain is still lacking. But some promising advances are being made in the study of chronic pain. For one thing, interdisciplinary pain management teams, facilities, and specialists are becoming more common and accessible for pain patients.

Pain management programs specialize in helping chronic pain patients manage their health condition and find effective and safe ways to alleviate their pain. These programs take a customized, tailored approach to treatment, ensuring that each plan is made especially for the individual patient’s symptoms, needs, and lifestyle. Pain management programs also use an interdisciplinary approach to treating and managing chronic pain. A combination of specialists, physicians, pharmacists, nurses, and therapists are often a part of a pain management team.

Can CBD treat chronic pain?

Fortunately, new studies on CBD’s therapeutic effects are showing that CBD oil and derivative products are useful for treating chronic pain conditions. M.S. patients who were given CBD sprays found relief from stiffness and nerve pain, while patients with chronic back, muscle, and joint pain can also benefit from CBD oil and other cannabis-derived products. Preclinical studies on CBD oils effectiveness for migraine sufferers have also shown promise for people whose migraine triggers include muscle pain and stiffness.

It’s true that CBD oils can include THC, the same compound in marijuana that induces a high. But, the amounts of THC in CBD oils is not enough to alter a person’s state of mind or get them high. But, CBD oils that contain THC can result in a positive drug test. It’s possible for patients to purchase CBD-only products. CBD won’t show up on a drug test since it is not a mind-altering substance and can’t induce euphoria.

The other benefits associated with CBD for pain is that it isn’t toxic to the liver, and the body can’t build up a tolerance to CBD. Also, CBD does not come with a risk of overdose, addiction, or painful and distressing withdrawal symptoms. Purchasing CBD from a reputable manufacturer ensures that the product is of high quality and will offer patients relief from chronic pain symptoms.

Last updated September 17 2019