One treatment does not fit all: Chronic pain and opioids

Injured Workers Chronic Pain

If you follow workers’ compensation articles, then you know I often talk about opioids and opioid addiction among injured workers. I recently came across this article from July 2018. I wanted to share this article because it highlights key topics that are often overlooked. Specifically, it talks about the “opioid crisis” as it relates to individuals suffering from chronic pain.

 

Pain is subjective. We all know that pain exists because we all experienced pain. We also all know that people experience and react to pain differently. Despite this fact, there is no good way to measure or quantify pain objectively. For example, take two individuals with nearly identical spinal MRI findings. One may report being in pain while the other reports no pain at all. Because pain is subjective, and because people experience it differently, treatment for pain should be compassionate and customized for each patient. However, in my experience, non-opioid treatment alternatives for chronic pain is often cruel and cookie-cutter.

 

Overuse of opioids can have several repercussions including overdose related death. In working as a society to overcome the negative repercussions associated with the “opioid crisis”, we must be careful not to marginalize or dismiss the very real symptoms of individuals with chronic pain. The cookie-cutter alternative pain management treatment options, which often preach mind over matter, are unfair. They are also unrealistic in treating chronic pain for most individuals. I believe most of those suffering from chronic pain want nothing more than to be able to grit through it and overcome their pain. Therefore, effective and compassionate treatment must acknowledge that the individual experience of pain is real and must involve collaboration with the patient. After all, the patient is the only one who knows how they feel and what improves their symptoms versus what does not.

 

As a society, I think it would be nice if we could be more compassionate towards individuals suffering from chronic pain. Rather than ignoring invisible conditions like fibromyalgia, MS or even spinal injuries, we should be cognizant that the human body has many frailties that impact people in many ways.

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