Why Pain Treatment Really Needs to Be Individualized
Doctors can look at treating pain in one of two ways. First is the one-size-fits-all approach. Every patient treated with this approach is given a prescription for pain medication and sent home. The other option is to approach each case individually, developing individualized treatment programs based on causes, symptoms, and underlying health issues.
The doctors at Lone Star Pain Medicine in Weatherford, Texas prefer the individualized approach. They also do not believe that prescription medication is always the right pain treatment solution. They are not alone. A new organization known as the National Pain Advocacy Center suggests that opioid pain medications should be neither first nor second treatment options.
Chronic Pain Is Prevalent
The media has given chronic pain a lot of attention in recent years due to the ongoing opioid crisis. Indeed, chronic pain is prevalent in this country. According to the NPAC, some fifty million Americans experience daily or near-daily pain. They say that chronic pain is the leading cause of long-term disability.
Pain is challenging to address because it is associated with an almost unlimited number of injuries, diseases, and illnesses. Some sources of pain are physical; others are psychological; some forms of pain are easily identified; others continue to mystify doctors.
This is the number one reason pain management should not be assigned a one-size-fits-all approach. Given the sheer number of causes of pain, individual treatment plans seem like a no-brainer. And yet, how many physicians routinely turned to the prescription pad to treat chronic pain patients
Appropriate Rest and Activity
The big danger with chronic pain is allowing it to limit activity. Take something like osteoarthritis, for example. Most arthritis experts will tell you that limiting physical activity is the worst thing you can do if you suffer from the condition. Unfortunately, one-size-fits-all treatments revolving primarily around pain medication tend to invite immobility.
In the case of osteoarthritis, continued activity is essential for strengthening joints and maintaining flexibility. So a pain specialist might recommend regular daily exercise along with frequent physical therapy treatments. Only in the most severe cases would that doctor suggest surgery or long-term pain medications.
Another good example is fibromyalgia pain. Once thought to be a syndrome without any known causes, fibromyalgia is now understood as a condition affecting the central nervous system. It causes significant pain throughout the body. Continued activity is key to treating it.
Likewise, appropriate rest is helpful to both osteoarthritis and fibromyalgia. Getting eight hours of restful sleep per night goes a long way toward helping patients feel better. Similarly, combining appropriate rest with regular activity goes a long way toward alleviating the need for pain medication.
A More Reasoned Approach
The global response to the opioid crisis has been positive in the sense that it has forced us to realize what a problem opioids really are. On the other hand, the pendulum may have been allowed to swing too far back in the other direction. In other words, our combined fear of opioids and a lack of other treatments may now be causing us to neglect chronic pain patients. That is not what they need. Rather, they need a more reasoned approach.
Such an approach seeks to learn the underlying causes of pain. With such causes revealed, more effective treatments can be offered. This more reasoned approach doesn’t assume that pharmacology is the right solution. It also does not assume the pain is isolated. It looks to account for a patient’s entire health picture with the intent of managing pain in light of one’s overall health. In short, an individualized approach to pain is best.