When I think about chronic pain, I think about my patient Margaret and her back pain. She wasn’t sure how it started – maybe she lifted her grandson wrong, or it was the extra hours on her feet at the shop.
Her doctors prescribed medications and physical therapy. She had X-rays and an MRI, which revealed arthritis in her spine. Then she developed intense sciatica – pain shooting down her leg. She received an injection and a prescription for an opioid medication to take when the pain was unbearable, which was often at night.
Other medications followed – for sleep, for the nerve pain, and finally to lift her mood. By the time she came to me, she was on five medications, including a daily opioid. She could no longer exercise and had gained 50 pounds in the past 10 years. She was miserable. When she didn’t take her opioid, she became agitated and irritable – classic signs of opioid dependence.
My goal in providing you with the information in this paper is to help you avoid the 10 years of misery and pain Margaret experienced. As you’ll read, people with chronic pain need three things:
- a health care team that works together and shares information,
- non-drug approaches to help improve function, cope with the pain as well as reduce it, and
- help managing medications with a goal of getting off or reducing opioid use.
Read on to learn more about these three pillars of pain relief.