Chronic Pain, Prescribed Opioids and Pain Management

Chronic pain is pain that persists for several months and sometimes years, signaling the nervous system that the body is in discomfort or agony. Every day, a wide range of health conditions such as arthritis, back sprain, migraine and peripheral neuropathy can cause chronic pain for millions.

Age and Chronic Pain Experience

Middle-aged and older adults experience more aches and pains as their joints and bodies begin to wear down with age, disease and injury. Elders are more likely to find ongoing pain interrupting their quality of life with restricted movement, lower energy, feelings of depression, trouble concentrating and poor sleep. Unrelieved pain can lead to more emergency room visits, longer hospital stays, higher rates of rehospitalizations and increased strain on personal finances.

Opioid Prescriptions for Chronic Pain

In the World Drug Report 2017, the United Nations notes that 29.5 million people globally are suffering “from drug use disorders, including dependence.” Roughly 70 percent of the misuse and overuse of painkillers stems from a class of controlled prescription drugs called opioids that include oxycodone (OxyContin), hydrocodone (Vicodin) and morphine.

Physicians are now increasingly aware that prescribed pain medications can be addictive and want to assist patients in better pain management without dependency on painkillers. Many of the stronger pain drugs carry unknown risks and are under added scrutiny to determine whether they are effective in the long term.

What can chronic pain sufferers do other than take pain-relieving medications and herbal analgesic substances?

Chronic Pain Treatment Alternatives

Individuals respond to pain relief differently, but there are several ways to alleviate and manage pain and improve function without reliance on strong pain medications. These pain relief treatments include:

  • Physical therapy
  • Massage therapy
  • Acupuncture
  • Stretching exercises, yoga, tai chi
  • Biofeedback
  • Relaxation techniques
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Non-opioid medications such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen
  • Trigger point, steroid and nerve block injections
  • Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) and intradiscal electrothermal therapy (IDET)

Always consult with your medical team to determine the best pain management approach for your individual health condition. Be sure to follow specific medication directives, and if you or an older loved one needs help with medication monitoring, home care assistance might be an answer.

Resources for Chronic Pain Management

Consulting with a pain management specialist — a physician who is trained to evaluate, diagnose and treat acute pain, chronic pain and cancer pain — is highly recommended. Patients may ask for a referral through a primary care physician. National pain associations offer resources regarding pain awareness, treatments and management tools and often compile a directory of pain rehabilitation centers across the country. If you search online for “pain management program,” or “integrated pain services,” you will find many hospitals, clinics and medical centers affiliated with universities that offer assistance to patients with chronic pain.

How are you or a your elder loved one coping with chronic pain?