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Chronic Pain Can Be Managed With Alternative Therapies

Posted on July 10, 2014 by Rita Wilson

Traumatic injuries and opioid therapy can alter the pain pathways in the central nervous system, and this process is called neuroremodeling. This can cause unwanted or undesirable reactions to pain and negatively impact the recovery process. There are several approaches to reversing the neuroremodeling, some of these alternative treatments include cognitive behavior therapy and opioid tapering.
A patient cannot overcome chronic pain when their mind is at odds with their body, and so psychological therapy can be an effective way to reverse the body’s perception of pain. Cognitive behavior therapy uses teaching strategies to enable patients to control their perception of pain, and to overcome the feeling of defeat about an injury.   Through CBT, patients learn to cope with existing pain using relaxation, distraction, imagery and self-hypnosis.

Chronic pain affects the whole person… mind, body and spirit.  As such, pain management alternatives must consider more than just the physical.

“In some patients, opioid therapy administered to reduce pain has the opposite effect and the patient experiences an increased feeling of pain. This effect is called opioid-induced hyperalgesia (OIH). OIH is an example of neuroremodeling that occurs to the specialized receptors in the body that respond to opioids. The cause is unknown, but sometimes a normal perception of pain can be restored by discontinuing opioid therapy through a medically supervised program. The assistance of a comprehensive pain management center experienced in opioid tapering may be necessary.”

Many are resistant to standard detoxification programs, noting that most are cost-prohibitive, and many times the patient returns to old habits.  While this may occur in some cases,  greater attention is being given in treatment guidelines, especially when opioids are involved, to recommend alternative pain management strategies like CBT in an effort to heal the whole person.  Leveraging the patient’s individual strengths while building compensatory strategies to offset weaknesses, long term success can be achieved. 
                     
What’s the old saying…..

 “Give a man fish and he will have food today.  Teach a man to fish and he will have food for a lifetime.”

Are we, as an industry,  willing to spend the time, money and effort to teach?