Almost one million Oregonians suffer from chronic pain, but pain treatment here has created a world of hurt for many people struggling with chronic pain, post-operative pain or acute pain because now the state is requiring Oregonians to withdraw from the drugs that were prescribed to treat pain.
In 2012, 1 out of 4 Oregonians were prescribed an opioid for pain relief, but due to the high incidence of addiction, overdose and abuse, those numbers put Oregon at the front of the nation in abuse of such drugs.
Oregon leads the nation in the abuse of such drugs, federal statistics show, with the state’s rate of prescription drug abuse 39 percent higher than the national average. Law enforcement and health-care officials are desperately fighting what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has termed “the deadly epidemic of prescription painkiller abuse.”
Dr. Charles Elder, a Primary Care Physician at Kaiser says:
“From a public health standpoint, our managing of chronic pain is woefully inadequate,” Elder said. Some rural communities in Oregon have very limited chronic pain care and residents are required to wait months to get an appointment, and then have to travel several hours in either direction in order to see a doctor who can treat chronic pain.
Now, we’re in pain and we’re having drug withdrawals
Long-term use of painkillers was never a good idea and many doctors and patients have known this. We can’t hold doctors responsible for prescribing addictive painkillers – it’s not like it was being done without our consent; unfortunately, pain is not a good master and when we’re in pain we’ll agree to anything to get out of pain, including secondary treatments such as physical therapy or alternative therapies.
The state of Oregon recognizes that opioids are most likely to be successful in reducing pain and restoring function when they are combined with other pain management approaches such as physical therapy and psychological techniques, however, these secondary strategies are often overlooked by practitioners and ignored by patients.
But, we’re in pain! What do we do?!
Harvard Medical School reports:
Pain is debilitating, interfering with the ability to sleep, work, and enjoy life. It can aggravate other health conditions and lead to depression and anxiety symptoms.
Relieving it often requires a trial-and-error approach that embraces the whole person, not just the source, which cannot always be identified clearly.
Many people find it useful to choose from a menu of different pain treatments and remedies, combining them in a regimen that fits their lifestyles.
In addition to the standard pain medications, and surgical repairs of specific problems, patients and their clinicians also have access to a wide range of nondrug therapies for pain.
Acupuncture, biofeedback, topical treatments, assistive devices, tai chi and yoga are just a few of the many options available.
Pain can be managed without harmful drugs
CNN’s The Empowered Patient reports five tips for facing pain without drugs:
- Exercise. While it may seem counter-intuitive to exercise while in pain, many doctors say in the long run it can help. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons has advice for exercising with low back pain, and the Arthritis Foundation has tips for exercising with arthritis.
- Alternative therapies. The National Institutes of Health, the American Pain Foundation and the Beth Israel Medical Center in New York have suggestions for alternative therapies to treat pain.
- Sleep. A lack of REM sleep makes you more sensitive to pain.
Dr. Vijay Vad, a sports medicine specialist at the Hospital for Special Surgery in Manhattan, says, “Let’s say you have a cut on your finger and you’ve had enough sleep, you may say your pain is a 4 on a scale of 1-10,” he says. “But if you haven’t had enough sleep, you may say it’s a 7, and it’s the same cut.”
- Supplements. Studies show fish oil, Vitamin B, glucosamine and chondroitin can help against certain types of pain.
- Heat and ice. The National Institutes of Health suggests ice for the first few days of a back injury, and then to switch to heat.
Now that Oregonians must find new ways to manage pain, we must be open-minded about pain strategies that are working for others.
At the Senior Center in Klamath Falls, seniors in pain can receive help in deciding which treatments, therapies and programs might help them with their pain management strategies.
Every little bit helps when it comes to easing pain.
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