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
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
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
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.