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U.S. News 09/07/2017

Chronic Pain Management: Beyond Opioids

Chronic Pain Relief

For years, physicians have relied on opioids as the first line of defense to help their patients living with chronic pain find relief. But what if these medications were treated as the last resort?

The FDA recently released proposed changes to its blueprint for educating health care providers on treating chronic pain. In an effort to help patients reduce their reliance on opioids, the updates encourage physicians to consider non-pharmacological therapies – such as chiropractic care and acupuncture – for treatment. Recent advances in neuro- and wearable technologies are providing even more options for pain management.

These changes offer a promising step in the right direction in pain management treatment in the U.S. As it stands, the U.S. spends $600 billion annually on the direct and indirect costs of chronic pain. But for the estimated 100 million Americans currently living with chronic pain, more than half report little to no control over their pain.

Because chronic pain is a complex biopsychosocial condition – meaning that it involves the interplay of biological, psychological and social factors – it’s uniquely personal and affects each person differently. For some, the primary issue is the direct experience of pain or the pain intensity; for others, the impact of their pain is felt through the deterioration of aspects of their quality of life – including sleep, activity, mood and general health.

Given that chronic pain is such an individual experience, treatment methods need to be personalized. This requires looking beyond prescription medication as the single go-to treatment and exploring non-opioid approaches that can deliver needed relief and improve the overall quality of life for those with chronic pain. Compounding this challenge is the increase of government restrictions around opioids because of the opioid epidemic. This is creating an even greater urgency for alternative therapies as the chronic pain community is facing unprecedented barriers to accessing the medications on which they have traditionally relied.

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