Pain is one of the most challenging symptoms to manage when striving for meaningful and compassionate care. While the healthcare industry has attempted to align objective measures of pain through self-reporting and measurable solutions, the subjective nature of pain can leave healthcare professionals feeling as if they’re pursuing vague or unreasonable expectations.
The field of pain management typically uses medications, therapies, and interventions that are all geared towards a process unique to the patient to manage pain. Unfortunately, not all pain can be cured, and because total relief might prove impossible, providers are often forced to use highly nuanced and subjective judgements to try to lessen it as much as possible for their patients.
Pain is a complicated physiologic process at baseline, and healthcare professionals are increasingly presented with a convoluted trade-off between quality of life and modern medicine. Managing the challenges of chronic pain begins with understanding its origins and outcomes while appreciating available treatment options.
Understanding Chronic Pain
Chronic pain is defined as pain that lasts for greater than three months. Over those three months, pain can be constant or intermittent, and can be felt anywhere in the body. While acute pain can be attributed to a present illness or injury experienced there in the moment, chronic pain involves many different kinds of pain, all of which can linger long after the original injury has healed.
Chronic pain can include conditions like:
- Arthritis or joint pain from injury or degenerative disease processes
- Pain related to oncological conditions impacting multiple body systems
- Neurogenic pain resulting from conditions influencing the nervous system
- Bowel discomfort from chronic bowel conditions
- Musculoskeletal pain secondary to conditions like fibromyalgia
The potential to totally eliminate chronic pain is limited, and treatment goals aimed at reducing pain and maximizing functionality to give a patient the best quality of life in an imperfect situation.
It is important to also understand that the symptoms of chronic pain can go well beyond the physical. Chronic pain and mental health are often interconnected, with up to 45% of people experiencing chronic pain also suffering from depression. When it comes to mental health conditions, research demonstrates that there are some shared biological connections between pain and mental health, and individuals with a history of depression appear to be more sensitive to pain.
Chronic Pain Management Guidelines
The effective management of chronic pain is well suited for a multidisciplinary approach that reaches far outside the box healthcare professionals are familiar with for patients experiencing acute pain. Courses like Chronic pain: Therapies, Treatment, and Management Options and Mastering Pain: Mindful Behavioral Techniques for Enhancing Quality of Life in Chronic Pain Patients by Premiere explore the intersection between pain and the patient as an individual, offering safe and effective options of pain management.
While the first thought coming to many people’s minds in the treatment of pain is often medications such as opioids or other controlled substances, this does not always need to be the case. Non-opioid medications combined with other therapies can be very effective, while avoiding the pitfalls of debilitating side effects like the short and long term opioid effects to patients.
Treatments focused on the emotional, cognitive, and psychological aspects of pain can contribute significant benefits to the management of chronic pain. Behavioral interventions include therapies that work on changing a patient’s response and relationship to pain.
Approaches that include diagnostic and interventions can improve both acute and chronic pain. Procedures like trigger point injections, neuromodulation, and cryo-neuroablation are often effective options to include in a pain management regime.
Integrative Health Options
Treatments like acupuncture, massage therapy, movement therapies, and a focus on spirituality can also be considered supportive when clinically indicated.
Create a Plan of Care
Chronic pain can damage almost every aspect of a patient’s life, impacting sleep cycles, mobility, daily quality of life, and overall mental and emotional stability.
A plan of care for chronic pain needs to look at the person as a whole. By doing so, healthcare professionals can create individualized management plans that produce the best outcomes for people experiencing chronic pain.
A meaningful plan of care should includes a focus on elements like:
- Responsible use of medications
- Education on pain
- Alternative techniques like breathing exercises and meditation
- Support for mental health
- Exercise and movement therapies
Chronic pain is a personal experience and it deserves a personalized approach. This means the management of chronic pain requires work on both the part of the patient and the provider. Total resolution of pain may not be possible, but improving and optimizing day-to-day life can be achieved by focusing on milestones such as:
- Setting pain goals
- Learning new coping strategies
- Setting activity goals
- Being open to different types of pain management methods
- Regular patient visits
It is Important to Know Chronic Pain Management Guidelines for Safe and Compassionate Care
Pain is a unique experience that can impact many aspects of patients’ lives. Management of chronic pain is more than just giving someone medication while they heal, and requires a care plan inclusive of multimodal therapies.
Courses like Chronic pain: Therapies, Treatment, and Management Options by Premiere’s Mary Ellen Biggerstaff DNP MPH FNP offer an excellent overview of chronic pain management and multidisciplinary approaches in the field. All Premiere courses are created by industry leaders, providing the expertise needed for optimal patient care.