Sharing Stories of Pain and Hope
“Everything I enjoyed caused me intense pain. It affects every aspect of your life,” says J.B., 49, one of our Texas pain patients. “Not until you get treatment do you realize you can live with less pain.”
More than 12,000 patients walk through our doors each month seeking pain relief treatment. J.B.’s is one of the many personal reflections we will share during September, which is Pain Awareness Month.
According to the American Chronic Pain Association, which organizes the annual event, about one in three people lives with intractable pain. Helping them manage and overcome it has been the mission at Physician Partners of America since 2013. We hear stories daily of people like J.B., who live with all types of chronic pain: degenerated discs, spinal stenosis, migraine, fibromyalgia, arthritis, cancer pain and diabetic neuropathy, among others. It is our goal to help each patient seek a path of pain relief.
How Many People Live with Chronic Pain?
During Pain Awareness Month, we are reminded of the startling numbers related to chronic pain:
- It is the number one cause of adult disability in the U.S.
- It affects 50 million Americans
- It costs $100 billion per year in lost workdays, medical expenses and other benefit costs.
- It is a social issue. As you will see from the stories we will present to you each day on social media, unmanaged chronic pain is isolating. It causes people to withdraw from friends, family and communities.
Interventional and Integrative Pain Management Approaches
Physician Partners of America practices interventional pain management. That means getting to the root cause of the pain and treating it as its source. Some types of pain can be relieved to a degree and others can be eliminated. Our pain management doctors work with our orthopedics and laser spine divisions to find the best course of treatment for each patient.
What about Opioids for Pain Treatment?
As Pain Awareness Month illustrates, the debate over opioids for pain continues to heat up. Nearly 2 million Americans have a disorder related to prescription painkillers, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.
It’s important to remember that the opioid crisis stems from treatment of acute pain, the type that lasts less than three weeks. Historically, opioid medications were prescribed for short-term pain because they are effective.
“Opioids are very seductive drugs, but they work. You give opioids to somebody in pain and believe me, the pain goes away, but it only works for so long,” PPOA Chief Medical Officer Abraham Rivera, M.D., told a recent televised opioid town hall. “In the acute setting, they are phenomenal drugs. After that, the patient gets hooked on them. They’re extremely addictive.”
Strict prescription limits are now in place in many states as a result.
Physician Partners of America has long recognized the dangers of opioid addiction and uses effective options to treat the root cause of the pain versus masking it. They include:
- Interventional pain management as a preferred treatment
- Opioid antidotes prescribed along with every opioid-based prescription.
- Medication management
- Intraoperative neuromonitoring to avoid accidental nerve damage during surgery
- Drug-genes testing to determine the right medication for each patient
New Prescribing Laws
Restrictive new laws are aimed at people with acute pain. PPOA’s pain management doctors specialize in chronic pain, which lasts more than three to six weeks. We do write prescriptions for opioid medications in select cases. Usually, these are patients who have been taking these medications for years just to function normally. However, we manage these types of prescriptions carefully.
PPOA doctors believe in reducing dosages wherever possible. PPOA founder Rodolfo Gari, M.D, MBA, recalls many successes. “I’ve had some really gratifying stories over the past 30 years – patients who come in with mega-doses of opioids and you wonder how they walked into your office.”
Pain Awareness Month is Just the Beginning
Neurostimulators and minimally invasive laser spine procedures are just some of the cutting-edge treatments PPOA uses in severe pain cases, along with nerve blocks, injections and minimally invasive laser spine procedures.
While we have seen many success stories, there is still a long way to go. The Food and Drug Administration held the first of several planned hearings with chronic pain patients in July. The agency aims to shape new guidelines to address concerns that some feel have been muted in addressing the opioid crisis.
PPOA will be watching with interest. We will keep key issues top of mind through Pain Awareness Month. We will continue to find a balance between patient safety and humane guidelines, practice interventional treatments, and wage a battle against chronic pain, one patient at a time.