Pain management is one of the oldest areas of medicine. And just as there are many different causes of pain, there are many different treatment options. One of the most controversial options is pain-relieving drugs, especially the long-term use of opioids for chronic pain. One thing is for sure – all patients should have access to a variety of pain management options. Pain-relieving drugs may be the right choice in some cases, but they should never be the only option on the table.
A recent bill sponsored by Wisconsin congressman Ron Kind serves to highlight this issue. Many veterans receive only drug therapy for their chronic pain. The bill, called the Chiropractic Care Available to All Veterans Act, would make chiropractic care a standard benefit of Veterans Affairs health care, and require chiropractic care and services at every VA medical center by the end of 2016. The bill is also supported by the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Paralyzed Veterans of America, the American Legion, Vietnam Veterans of America, National Chiropractic Leadership Conference, and the American Chiropractic Association.
Pain management is a major health care issue in America. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), pain affects more Americans than diabetes, heart disease and cancer combined. It is the most common reason Americans seek health care.
So what do you need to know about pain management?
Let’s start with when you should seek help for pain. According to Cedars-Sinai, you should consult a doctor if:
- Pain has been present for over 3 months
- Pain is interfering with your everyday activities
- Pain is interfering with sleep
- Your orthopaedic condition has healed, but you are still in pain
Of course, this list is not exhaustive. You should never hesitate to seek medical help for pain. I tell my patients that when pain becomes chronic or intense or interferes with your normal, daily activities, it’s time to call the doctor.
When you are at your health care provider’s office, this guide from the New York State Department of Health can give you a good idea of what you may need to tell the doctor. You may want to describe:
- The location of your pain – be specific.
- The type of pain (sharp, dull, steady, comes and goes)
- The severity of pain – usually on a scale from 1 to 10
- If pain is interfering with your everyday activities (for example, sleep, work, relationships, etc.)
- The treatment options you’ve tried so far (for example, pain relievers, physical therapy, etc.)
- Your reactions to those treatments
You should keep these things in mind before your visit, but don’t worry about memorizing them! Any good health care provider will think to ask about these aspects of pain, as well as any other questions that may be relevant.
After you’ve sought help for pain, what are your treatment options?
General pain management options can include:
- Pain-relieving medications
- Physical therapy
- Chiropractic treatment
- Nutritional changes and supplements
- Epidural steroid injections
If you’re having chronic or intense back or spinal pain, or if the pain is interfering with your everyday activities, it’s time to consult with a spine surgeon. We can accurately diagnose the problem and offer appropriate treatment options – which may be surgical, but may be as simple as rest and an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory such as ibuprofen. Our goal is to help you be pain-free.
What pain management options have helped you? Come visit my Facebook page and discuss your experiences.