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Pain Management Health Center

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Chronic Pain: Integrative Treatments

Nontraditional techniques, coupled with trusted drug therapies, are lifting the spirits of chronic pain sufferers.

Integrative Approach to Chronic Pain continued...

"There is no way to be pain-free unless you get comprehensive care. You just can't, say, inject pain away. It doesn't work," says B. Todd Sitzman, MD, MPH, director of advanced pain therapy at Forrest General Cancer Center in Hattiesburg, Miss. "Pain can be well-managed when the whole focus of treatment is on function. We want to get the patient as active and independent as possible."

Steven Stanos, DO, medical director of the RIC Chronic Pain Care Center and Sienkiewicz's doctor, agrees. "The multidisciplinary approach toward treating pain is definitely a trend. The public is more aware of it because of all the problems we have had with pain medications recently."

Stanos is referring to the recent headlines about Vioxx, a painkiller Merck voluntarily withdrew from the market in September 2004 after research linked it to an increased risk of heart attack. A similar drug, Bextra, was later taken off the market. Since then, all anti-inflammatory painkillers have been under scrutiny.

And this multidisciplinary trend has legs. "Baby boomers are aging at a rapid pace ... and [this group] will not put up with pain," says Mary Pat Aardrup, executive director of the National Pain Foundation in Englewood, Colo. "We are going to see some big changes in the pain field in terms of how to have a functional life within the confines of what you are experiencing."

Treating the Person, Not Just the Pain

Like diabetes, chronic pain is a condition that needs to be managed on many fronts, says Dennis Turk, MD, the John and Emma Bonica professor of anesthesiology and pain research at the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle and president of the American Pain Society. "When we treat diabetes, we use insulin, but we now know that all people with diabetes also need to watch their diet and exercise, in addition to the use of insulin therapy [and other diabetes medications]. The same [multidisciplinary approach] is true with pain," he says.

Turk explains how-and why. "From a biomedical standpoint, we [tackle] the tissue source of the pain with medication or surgery. From a psychological standpoint, a significant number [of patients] have related depression and anxiety. From the social side, people with chronic pain may engage in bad behaviors that can make things worse.

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