As a pain management specialist, I recognize the role that medication plays in treating chronic and acute pain. I am board certified in pain medicine and anesthesiology, so I have a deep understanding of how prescription medications can complement interventions such as steroid injections to address a patient’s pain.
Yet I also recognize that the over-prescribing of powerful prescription painkillers has led to our nation’s current opioid epidemic. This is particularly frustrating to me as a pain specialist because I know that in many cases, medication was not the right answer for these patients to begin with.
But there are times when prescription medications, when prescribed and monitored carefully, can be an appropriate and integral part of a comprehensive treatment plan for many people who struggle with chronic or acute pain. Just ask any cancer patient.
For many years, cancer doctors have used intrathecal pumps to administer pain medications directly into the spinal fluid. Because the medication is delivered directly to the source of the pain, the dose of medication patients receive is much lower, which helps limit the side effects of systemic analgesics. It also means there are no pain pills that may end up in the wrong hands.
We are now employing the use of intrathecal pumps in our practice as part of our comprehensive pain management treatment plans. They are not appropriate for every patient, but for those with chronic pain who are not achieving relief with oral medications, they may be the answer. They enable us to target the delivery of medication to the source of their pain in a fraction of the amount they would require if taking prescription pills.