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Opioid Awareness

Here’s How to Take Control of Your Pain Management

For many, living with chronic pain becomes a way of life, a constant companion. A companion that can take complete control of not just the person with pain, but that person’s entire family. If we are to help people living with pain, we must step back and look at all the possible treatments. The easy method simply doesn’t work if we are to improve quality of life, increase function and reduce one’s sense of suffering.  

First, we must understand that each person is different and comes with a different set of needs.  We have heard recently of the term “patient-centered care,” but is it really applied when it comes to chronic pain? There are but a few fortunate folks who have access to a multi-disciplinary approach to managing their pain.  

Four flat tires

Perhaps the best way to describe the expectations of a person with pain is like having a car with four flat tires. We all want a quick fix, so when offered an opioid to rid our bodies of pain, we accept. But, many still have pain, because the problem is that the opioid only fills up one of their tires. They still have three flat tires and cannot really get back to “normal” life. For each person, the combination of treatments and therapies will be different for each tire.

Some may need physical therapy, some may need counseling and some may need acupuncture or nutritional guidance. For others, there’s self-management skills such as relaxation, goal setting, pacing and exercises, perhaps even a support group. When all four tires are filled with the treatment designed for a specific person, that person can get going again. It will then be up to that person to maintain his or her wellness. They must become an active participant in their own care rather than be a passive patient. 

Balanced approach

One problem that stands in the way of a balanced approach to pain management is the access to care: Meaning, obtaining access to health care professionals and having the ability to pay. 

Opioids can be part of a comprehensive pain-treatment plan. But alone, they often do not provide the necessary motivation or therapeutic effect needed to allow the person to live with pain to make progress. Keep in mind that for most people living with pain, there will always be some level of discomfort, but if a patient is given proper medical treatment and is taught self-management skills, he or she can live a full life in spite of pain. 

Today we live in a society that expects instant solutions, quick responses and, if possible, little effort for whatever we are dealing with. That includes people who suffer from pain. Because no one wants to be controlled by their pain, for many that means simply taking a pill, often an opioid, to obtain relief. Opioids can play an important role in managing discomfort, but for those living with chronic pain it may not be that simple. It takes a combination of treatment and therapies to live a full life. Talk to your health care provider to determine what the best treatment plan is for you based on your needs. And know that you will be an active part in your treatment. 

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