What Is Chronic Pain Management?

Instructor: Ian Lord

Ian is a real estate investor, MBA, former health professions educator, and Air Force veteran.

In this lesson, we will define chronic pain and explore some of the management options patients have to cope with this problem by reducing their perceived pain.

Chronic Pain

Jon's lower back has been in constant pain ever since a heavy box fell on him at work. For the last two years he hasn't had any relief, and he has decided to ask his family practice doctor about his options going forward for keeping the pain under control. Let's see what kind of guidance Jon is given by his doctor about how he can manage his chronic pain using both medicine and an interdisciplinary approach.

From a patient education perspective, it will help for Jon to understand exactly what chronic pain is. When the box first fell on him, Jon experienced acute pain. This was the direct result of the impact and fall. Most of the time, when people get hurt the pain they experience goes away as the body heals. But since this pain has continued over a long period of time it becomes known as chronic pain. This kind of pain can be the result of an injury, cancer or some other underlying long term illness.

Medical Management

In consultation with his doctor, Jon has a wide variety of options for working within the healthcare system to manage his pain. A commonly used approach is to treat the pain with prescription pain medications. Of course, the pain medications can be habit forming and potentially cause other complications like fatigue or drowsiness. Dependence on pain medications may reduce Jon's chances of attempting a non-pharmacological approach such as physical therapy and could even increase his chances of prescription drug abuse. Some combination of physical therapy and surgery may also be used to help stop or lessen Jon's pain. Medical management will involve licensed healthcare professionals such as doctors, nurses, and physical therapists.

Interdisciplinary Approaches

Jon has other approaches beyond using pain medication or other treatment from a doctor or physical therapist. An interdisciplinary approach to chronic pain management can supplement what would otherwise be an exclusively medical method of coping. An interdisciplinary approach uses a team of treatment providers who address pain management through a holistic, whole-person approach instead of simply focusing on the pain. Others who may be called on to help include nutritionists, social workers, and vocational or occupational counselors.

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