February is already coming to a close, and we at Pain Doctor hope that your year is off to a good start. This month, we did our best to help you understand treatment options for chronic pain and our unique approach to pain management. Opioid painkillers, while popular, aren’t the cornerstone of our treatments. Instead, these medications are just one tool to help us get your pain under control and your life back to normal.

Prescription painkillers

While opioids can be a good short-term pain treatment option, they’re often not the best choice for long-term pain management.

Opioid painkillers can be a confusing topic. There are lots of different types and names, each suited to different situations. In our post on how opioids work, we attempted to simplify the subject a little. All opioids function by interacting with receptors that control the nervous system, as we explained:

“This suppresses part of the nervous system, thereby delaying pain signals. However, because the nervous system affects so much of the body, opioids can also cause drowsiness, lethargy, respiratory suppression, and a host of other effects.”

Because of these potential effects, opioids aren’t recommended for long-term use for most chronic pain conditions. Instead, opioids are most likely to be prescribed for short-term pain, such as trauma or post-operative pain, or pain that results from cancer or other severe diseases.

We also went into detail about the many potential risks and side effects of opioids. Despite this, opioids are sometimes a good choice, as noted in our post about the risks of prescription painkillers:

“Doctor-patient communication is key to strategies that prevent abuse and addiction. The patient must clearly communicate about his or her personal and family history, side effects, and other medications. At the same time, the physician must clearly communicate the risks of prescription painkillers so the patient understands the importance of following instructions. “

To facilitate this important doctor-patient communication, we at Pain Doctor use a 12-Step Checklist to encourage safe use of opioid painkillers. We also presented ways to prevent and stop opioid abuse, in addition to some of the alternative treatments we offer.

Cutting-edge treatment options 

Our February Pain Doctor blog posts also introduced you to some exciting, cutting-edge treatment options that can help you manage your pain. Regenerative therapy uses the body’s own cells to encourage healing. There are three types of regenerative therapy:

  • Stem cells
  • Amniotic cells
  • Platelet-rich plasma

The big draw of regenerative therapy is that it utilizes the patient’s own naturally-occurring cells. This means that there is almost no risk of rejection or side effects. Aside from an extremely small risk of infection, the biggest risk of regenerative therapy is that it will not work for you.

Nerve block injections are another relatively low-risk treatment option. These injections involve the delivery of pain medication directly to the nerves that relay pain signals. The medication interrupts the pain signals before they reach the brain. We use the best imaging techniques available to make sure that nerve block injections are delivered in just the right spot. This therapy is very versatile, so it can be applied to many different areas of the body.

Another type of cutting-edge pain treatment is electrical stimulation therapy. Pain signals transmitted along the nerves are interrupted by a very slight electrical shock. This is similar to the way nerve block injections work, but the pain is stopped by the shock instead of by an injected medication. We even found a brand new type of electrical stimulation therapy that will be coming out in 2015: the Quell device.

Safely managing your medications 

Medications are still the first line of defense against chronic pain. Safely managing your medications can be tricky, so we gave you some tips.

We also presented the dangers of doctor shopping. This practice involves going from doctor to doctor, clinic to clinic, and pharmacy to pharmacy to acquire the desired medications. Unfortunately, doctor shopping is bad for everyone. It’s dangerous for the people who do it. It makes life complicated for doctors, who are put in the awkward position of trying to figure out whether patients’ medication needs are real or fabricated. It also makes things harder for the people who genuinely need medications like painkillers, because doctors can become suspicious and hesitant after dealing with doctor shoppers.

In addition to this, we pointed out a few of the benefits of sticking with one physician (or one team of physicians). This allows your team of medical professionals to get to know you, your pain, and your challenges, so they can help you create the best possible pain management plan. The trust that can form between patient and doctor over time can only enhance patient care.

In the Pain Doctor post about medication management, we sympathized with the challenges of taking multiple medications. There are, however, many ways to keep medications organized, from charts to pill keepers to alarms to smartphone apps. Medications don’t have to rule your life, though. We also found a few ways to make it easier for you to take your medications with you on the go.

February events observed on Pain Doctor 

We also shared a few special events on Pain Doctor this month, because life shouldn’t be all about pain and pills.

Presidents Day was this month, offering us the chance to honor our nation’s heroes. Even if this holiday has its roots in a president’s (or presidents’?) birthday(s), we think it’s a perfect time to pay our respects to the modern-day heroes of our country: veterans.

Pets may not be quite as heroic as veterans, but they certainly can make life a lot brighter. Some animals perform jobs that no one else could do, like sniffing out cancer or comforting autistic children. Some even serve in the military. Even the untrained pets in our homes, badly-behaved and mischievous as some of them might be, can change our lives for the better.

World Spay Day reminded us that spaying and neutering is the best way to prevent certain cancers, improve behavior, lengthen life, and make our pets all around happier. It also helps relieve the overpopulation burden on animal shelters, thereby finding homeless pets homes and saving lives.

This was also American Heart Month, so we gave you some ideas at Pain Doctor to help improve your heart health. This year’s theme is knowing and controlling your blood pressure. Regular visits to your physician and steadfast following of his or her directions are crucial to keeping your blood pressure in a healthy range. Dietary changes, especially the reduction of sodium in the diet, can also help lower blood pressure. Exercise and quitting smoking can also help you keep your blood pressure at a healthy level.

What was your favorite Pain Doctor post this month?

Image by Michael Cardus via Flickr

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