Addressing the Epidemic of Undertreated Pain
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 misconception 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 pain.
Mainstream medicine could go a long way toward providing more relief and eliminating much of the undertreatment of pain by encouraging 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:
- Manage stress;
- Use relaxation and mindfulness-based techniques to cope;
- Respect their limits and find an appropriate level physical activity; and
- Use proper body mechanics.
For some patients medication can be an integral part of this type of program, but unlike with patients on medication alone, they 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 I went to, which you can watch here: Behavioral Pain Management Program Featured on KC News.
Have you had any experiences with behavioral pain management? How did it influence the way you live with chronic pain or illness?
I have lived with chronic migraines for the past seven years. I blog about migraines, pain, depression and chronic illness at Somebody Heal Me. You can follow me on Twitter @somebodyhealme. I use social media and my legal background to advocate for patients living with chronic illnesses and pain.