There’s been a lot of talk in the media lately about the overuse or abuse of pain medications. In some cases, the spotlight has focused on doctors accused of prescribing pain and anxiety medications in excessive quantities to patients.
Of course, painkillers are sometimes necessary as a temporary, palliative measure for certain patients. But what’s going on here? Why are so many people having problems with prescription pain meds?
Perhaps the bigger question is, what thought process leads a doctor to prescribe oxycodone, hydrocodone, and alprozolam in wildly increasing doses to a single patient? Such was the case with a St. Petersburg, FL doc who is currently facing criminal charges.
What makes this story even sadder is that this doctor’s own son died of an overdose of painkillers—some of which had been prescribed to him by his father. This makes me wonder if the doctor was even aware that what he was doing was dangerous—or if skewed thinking about pain management led him to believe that he was helping people.
To some degree, pain management has long played a secondary role in medicine, despite the unhealthy burden that pain places on the body and on society as a whole. If you think about it, many of the opiate pain medications—some of the most common meds prescribed—have origins that date back 2,000 years. Isn’t it time for us to start seeing pain management in a new light?
So, how should we be looking at pain management?
First, it’s important to understand that the body has natural resources for fighting pain- both physical and emotional. A lot of the emotional part centers on committing yourself to the process and desiring to live the best possible life. It’s very important to remember that pain has very real psychological effects, including depression and anxiety; these sometimes impede the pain management process.
The physical part of pain management involves using the most conservative methods first. For example, if much of the pain from a herniated disc can be alleviated with Spinal Decompression Traction (a drug-free and gentle method of removing pressure on the spinal nerves), doesn’t it make sense to start there?
There are a number of physical therapy techniques that can help both to lessen and prevent pain. Heat and ice therapies, ultrasound, electrotherapy, and low level laser therapy are some good examples. Therapeutic exercise is often helpful in increasing mobility (which can be restricted by pain) and building strength to prevent future injury.
Acupuncture is also used for pain management in our Monmouth County office. While the practice of acupuncture actually dates back to before the use of opium for pain relief, modern studies have shown that the technique is a legitimate method of reducing pain. Through the stimulation of certain points on the body, acupuncture prompts the release of naturally occurring, opiate-like chemicals known as endorphins. Acupuncture also inhibits the stimulation of nerve signals that can cause pain by increasing levels of serotonin. Serotonin has the effect of interrupting pain signals before they are able to reach the brain. It also improves mood and relaxation.
Chiropractic care for pain management is another possibility. By ensuring the health of the spine, pressure on the nerves can be reduced. Patients often experience neck pain or headaches because of poor posture. By correcting or improving the structure of the spine, pain can be reduced or even eliminated.
The pain management doctor at our Red Bank, NJ facility is dedicated to helping patients treat painful conditions without surgery or excessive drug use. We have incorporated a number of minimally invasive procedures—corticosteroid injections, anesthetic injections, and viscosupplementation (for osteoarthritis of the knee)—to help patients reduce pain so that they can take advantage of our physical therapy programs and other pain management techniques.
To learn more about conservative, healthy pain management in Monmouth County, please contact our Red Bank, NJ rehabilitation office.