Chronic pain is a debilitating condition, and it is one of the leading causes of disability in the United States. Unlike acute pain which goes away when the body heals, chronic pain lasts for three or more months. This type of pain distorts the nervous system, migrates to other areas of the body and decreases a person’s overall quality of life. Over the past 15 years, the treatment of chronic pain has been prescription opioid drugs. Unfortunately, due to the relaxed limitations on prescribing opioids for pain, there has been an increase in unintentional overdose deaths. This problem, as you may have heard, has become an epidemic in the United States.
With all eyes on this crisis, physicians and policymakers are rethinking the practice of treating chronic pain with opioids. This should not be a difficult decision to make, as opioids are not a good solution to long-term chronic pain. Not only are opioids highly addictive, but when taken over a long period to time, they may actually make chronic pain worse. This occurs because the brain increases its pain signals to override the medication’s block. A tolerance then forms and a higher dosage is usually prescribed, or the patient is switched to a more potent opiate.
Rise of Chronic Pain
To further compound the opioid issue, the prevalence of chronic pain is on the rise. It is unclear if more people are actually in pain or if more people are seeking treatment for their pain. There are several factors, however, that could explain an actual rise in this number.
With advances in medical treatments, people are living much longer lives. Right now what is occurring is that we are seeing the bubble of baby boomers enter into their 70’s. This accounts for a very large population of people who are beginning to experience arthritis, spinal pain, obesity, surgical operations and cancer.
Another factor that could be contributing to the rise in chronic pain is the skyrocketing rate of obesity in the United States. Approximately 40% of the population are considered obese. There are so many health effects associated with obesity including those that cause chronic pain. The extra weight contributes to strain on the spine and joints. As a result pain is usually experienced in the lower back and in the form of arthritis and osteoarthritis.
Preventative Approach to Chronic Pain
With Americans consuming nearly one-third the global supply of opioids, different approaches to pain management are being explored. Most schools of thought agree that prevention is key. We need to start with mitigating the risk factors and promoting optimum health before issues develop. An emphasis on a healthy lifestyle, such as exercise and improving sleep, will go a long way. Situations where pain management is needed should have better controls. Strategies need to be employed that involve moving away from opioid-centric treatments; improving patient’s self-management to include access to care that does not solely depend on prescription medications, and encouraging the evaluation of risks and benefits of pain treatment regimens.
Contact Tahoe Ketamine
An alternative pain management treatment that is rapidly gaining popularity are ketamine infusions. Ketamine, administered via IV infusion, is a highly effective treatment for chronic pain that can last for as long as 11-months. Ketamine has long been on the World Health Organization’s (WHO) list of essential medications, thanks to its powerful analgesic properties. Now, at clinics like ours, ketamine infusions are widely available as a non-addictive alternative to opiate medications for the treatment of chronic pain.
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