“Chasing” pain

chronic-pain-managementAbout 15 years ago, a physician friend discussed the difference between pain and suffering, and the different responses to each.

This article makes me wonder how often we fail to address suffering and focus exclusively on treating pain. That may make sense with acute pain, but addressing suffering seems to be an essential element of addressing chronic pain.

Today, most doctors remain focused on treating physical pain, which is just one symptom of chronic pain, experts say. And as a result, they also often “chase” pain, increasing opioid dosages as lower amounts become ineffective, exposing patients to more side effects.

“It becomes a vicious cycle,” said Roger Fillingim, a pain researcher at the University of Florida and a past president of the American Pain Society, a professional medical group.

A 2008 study by the Mayo Clinic found that patients who were weaned off opioids and put through a non-drug-based program experienced less pain than while on opioids and also significantly improved in function. Other studies have had similar findings.

UPDATE: Some recent posts have pointed out the lack of evidence for the use of opiates for long term management of chronic pain.

4 thoughts on ““Chasing” pain

  1. I wonder how many chronic pain patients have undiagnosed injuries. We assume that any injury can be ‘seen’ by regular imaging, and that if an MRI does not show injury, a person is not in physical pain. It wasn’t until I had a 3T MRI study that I was diagnosed with numerous painful injuries – injuries that were no shows on regular MRIs. If I had given up when doctors told me nothing was physically wrong,, I would be living out the rest of my life in severe chronic pain.


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