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Opioid Awareness

A Balanced Approach to Opioids and Pain Management

Penney Cowan 

Founder & CEO, American Chronic Pain Association

For the right person under the direction of their healthcare professional, opioids can be a useful tool. However, to get the full picture, we must contemplate every aspect of pain management. For many, ideal pain management would be a quick and easy solution of taking a pill and returning to life as it once was. Unfortunately, that is not always how it works, especially as concerns of overprescribing grow. 

Setting realistic goals 

We need to focus on a different area when it comes to pain management. First, you need to ask yourself what your goal is for treatment, while also managing your expectations. Many people who live with chronic pain may have to come to terms with the fact that they may never be fully pain-free. The key is to live a full life despite pain. It is important that healthcare professionals understand your needs and are able to discuss how to achieve them. Know that you have the right to ask questions if you do not understand what you are being told, and make sure you fully grasp all of your options, including the benefits and risks of certain treatment plans. 

The most important part of pain management is to understand all treatment options available. For those who may need an opioid as part of a full treatment plan, it is important to discuss precautions and best practices with a healthcare professional. 

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Alternative options

The decision on whether to use an opioid is a decision that only the patient and their healthcare professional should make together. However, there are other treatments that can be used alongside an opioid to help manage pain. Therapies such as physical therapy, biofeedback and stress management, counseling and cognitive behavioral therapy, nutritional guidance, acupuncture, massage, group therapy session, peer support, nerve blocks, therapeutic touch and Reiki are all viable options to explore. 

Most of all, the person with pain must be part of the treatment team. Working during physical therapy, listening to your body, managing stress, improving sleep and eating habits, and staying in communication with your healthcare provider are all ways to have agency during your pain management journey. It is a team approach with the person in pain at the center. 

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