Pain is Undertreated: Many Americans Aren’t Getting Relief

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Experts emphasize that a trusting, collaborative relationship between doctor and patient can go a long way toward finding meaningful relief. Pain groups such as the AAPM can help you locate specialists in your area, or you can reach out to nearby academic medical centers.

Reason #2: You and/or your doctor are afraid you’ll become addicted to painkillers

What you can do: If you’re concerned about the risk of addiction or other potential side effects of opioid analgesics, discuss them with your doctor. If you’re not sure your provider is up to speed on addiction (and how it differs from dependence and tolerance), use this National Institute on Drug Abuse site to educate yourself and those caring for you. Building a relationship with your pharmacist can be another great source of information and support.

Experts say, too, that patients should be screened for addiction risk before taking the drugs and then monitored carefully while on them to check for signs of abuse and to determine whether the drugs are really helping. Keep in mind that there could be other treatments, including other medications that may work well for you.

And if you think your doctor may be avoiding prescribing you the medication you need because he doesn’t understand addiction risk or fears getting into legal trouble, you may need to initiate an open conversation about his concerns.

Reason #3: Your health insurer doesn’t cover some or all of your pain medications

What you can do: If the pharmacist hands you a prescription for a drug you don’t recognize or your doctor didn’t prescribe for you, ask why. If you find out it’s because your insurer won’t pay for the original drug, consult with your doctor to see if there are other options that are covered. If she concludes that you really need the original prescription, ask her to call the insurance company and lobby directly on your behalf.

Also talk with your provider about other options, such as non-drug approaches like acupuncture and exercise. If you think you might qualify for a drug-assistance program based on your income, check out NeedyMeds.org or the Partnership for Prescription Assistance, which is run by pharmaceutical companies.

Reason #4: Too many of us have adopted a pop-a-pill mentality

What you can do: Explore all your options. Then work together with your healthcare providers, doing your part to help yourself. Be open-minded and willing to try different approaches until you find the ones that work for you. Some of the most effective and safe non-drug options for many pain conditions include physical therapy, massage, hot/cold compresses, stretching, yoga, biofeedback and stress management.

Keep in mind, too, that your drug regimen may need to be tweaked over time if what you’re taking doesn’t work. Talk to your doctor if you think you may need a higher dose, or a different medication altogether.

Reason #5: You think suffering is normal 

What you can do: As a chronic pain patient, you’re already likely facing sizeable challenges in getting good care, especially if your pain is severe, poorly controlled or otherwise hard to manage. So it would be a real shame to stand in your own way, right?

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