Monday, November 16, 2009

Changing Chronic Pain Care in America


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A committee of pain experts gathered by the Mayday Fund recently released a report about the state of treatment for people with chronic pain in the United States. The Mayday Fund Pain Report: A Call to Revolutionize Chronic Pain Care in America says chronic pain should be treated as a chronic illness and calls for health reforms and better education of treatment providers to enable them to properly diagnose and treat pain.

Mayday Fund Pain Report

Reading through the report left me with a few main conclusions. The report is absolutely correct when it says many chronic pain patients find themselves caught up in an endless search for adequate treatment. They see doctor after doctor and try treatment after treatment, but never receive care that adequately addresses their pain. Many of us can easily relate to this. Unfortunately, the report was researched and drafted by people who fit squarely within the traditional medical model. They do not necessarily understand the reality about pain medication, which is that it is not an acceptable long-term option for people with chronic pain. It causes serious problems for patients when taken long term, including constipation, dependency and the tendency to increase pain by stopping the body from producing its natural pain killers (endorphins). Tolerance is also a huge concern. As patients' tolerance increases doctors must prescribe stronger and stronger medications to give their patients any relief until people are so out of it they cannot function and, ultimately, are often in danger of overdosing on their medications despite taking them as prescribed.

I was disappointed to find none of the recommendations included anything about teaching patients skills for managing their chronic pain. When none of the interventions, treatments, surgeries or medications helps chronic pain patients, we must make sure they have help to learn some tools to help them live the best lives they can despite their extreme pain. Access to behavioral pain management programs like the one I'm participating in at The Lemons Center is essential for these people.

The report identified disparities of pain care for people of lower socioeconomic status and members of racial and ethnic minority groups. The report authors worry these disparities leave people with unrelenting pain that may change their nervous systems in a way that makes their pain permanent.

If you're intereted in seeing the recommendations and other information for yourself, download a PDF copy of the full report at:

Mayday Fund Pain Report

I'd be very interested in hearing your thoughts about the report.

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DISCLAIMER: Nothing on this site constitutes medical or legal advice. I am a patient who is engaged and educated and enjoys sharing my experiences and news about migraines, pain and depression. Please consult your own health care providers for advice on your unique situation.