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Pain Management Health Center

Chronic Pain Relief: New Treatments

New advances in drugs and technology mean there are now better solutions for chronic pain relief.
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Narcotics: Serious Medicine for the Worst Chronic Pain continued...

But use of narcotics has always been controversial. "There's been a perception among many doctors that they will get into legal problems if they undertreat or overtreat pain with opiates," Chan tells WebMD. "That is a factor of not having adequate education about these medications. These are very effective for the right patients. We have to use them carefully, but they can be used long-term."

"There is a small risk of addiction," Chan says, "but studies show that used appropriately, the risks are small."

When prescribing narcotics, pain specialists often prescribe combinations of medications -- taking advantage of new extended-release antidepressants, for example.

"Combining medications lets us reduce the amount of narcotic," Abdi tells WebMD. "It also lets us provide better pain relief, because the mechanism of narcotics is different from drugs like antidepressants and anticonvulsants." This approach is critical in treating nerve injury-related pain, as with diabetic neuropathyneuropathy, he adds.

Ultram ER is a non-narcotic drug which works on opioid receptors. It is indicated for moderate to moderately severe chronic pain when continuous pain treatment is needed.

The synthetic narcotics don't seem to have a risk of addiction, Abdi tells WebMD. "They are very effective in treating a lot of different types of pain syndromes. A lot of physicians prefer to utilize them before progressing to narcotics."

Among the newest narcotics for chronic pain relief:

  • The Duragesic transdermal skin patch is a narcotic treatment for moderate to severe chronic pain. It provides continuous delivery of the narcotic fentanyl for 72 hours.

  • More options for pain flare-ups. There are also two fast-acting medications containing the narcotic fentanyl. It was developed for cancer patients who have breakthrough pain -- and who are already taking opioid medications for cancer pain. Actiq comes in a "lollipop" form and Fentora is a tablet that dissolves in the mouth.

Zapping Chronic Pain With Targeted Procedures

For some, these procedures can also help with chronic pain relief:

Nerve blocks. When a group of nerves is causing pain to a specific organ or body region, the pain can be blocked with injection of a local anesthetic. That's a nerve block.

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