Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Addressing Epidemic of Pain Undertreatment

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We hear a lot about prescription pain killer abuse. Too much as far as I'm concerned. The fixation on pain killer abuse has worsened an already bad problem: undertreatment of pain among chronic pain patients. It's not only a problem because of the misperception among some doctors (not to mention the public at large) that pain really isn't a big deal, but also because harsh legal policies have made doctors fearful of following their instincts in treating their patients' pain.

Mainstream medicine could go a long way toward providing more relief and eliminating much of the undertreatment of pain by providing opportunities for patients to learn about and practice behavioral pain management. At this point it's not an especially well known approach, but with time I hope more doctors will buy in and expose their patients.

Behavioral Pain Management uses cognitive behavioral therapy to address the factors that play a role in chronic pain. Patients learn how to cope with the disease of chronic pain rather than fighting against it. This type of program addresses both the mental and physical aspects of living with chronic pain. Patients learn how to: (1) Manage stress; (2) Use relaxation and mindfulness-based techniques to cope; (3) Respect their limits and find an appropriate level physical activity; and (4) Use proper body mechanics. For some patients medication can be an integral part of this type of program, but unlike with medication alone patients are not limited to just one option for handling their pain.

I will be writing more in depth articles about behavioral pain management-related topics, but here is a list of articles I've previously written about behavioral pain management techniques to get you started:

Pacing: An Important Tool for Coping with Chronic Pain
Pain Tolerance: How Your Behavior Affects Increases or Decreases It
How are Chronic Pain and Acute Pain Different?
Behavioral Pain Management Dashboard
Why You Should Try Mindfulness to Cope with Chronic Pain

Last winter I completed the behavioral pain management program at the Lemons Center for Behavioral Pain Management. This program gave me valuable skills to turn to when I find myself becoming overwhelmed by the strain of unrelenting pain. The difference for me has been striking, and I'm thankful to have had the chance to learn these skills. Earlier this year a local news station did a piece on the center, which you can watch here: Behavioral Pain Management Program Featured on KC News.

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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.