A Call For More Chronic Pain Research

U.S. and Afghan soldiers on patrol.

U.S. and Afghan soldiers on patrol.

Over the last week, the controversy on pain management and pain medication has focused on a group that actually is helping to give the issue more attention: our active military and veterans.

The head of the National Pain Foundation thinks that may result in just what is needed in chronic pain-more patient focused research.

“The pain industry and government cannot do what they’ve been doing, which is to pay lip service to chronic pain research and let over 100-million people suffer,” said Dan Bennett, M.D., CEO of the National Pain Foundation.

“If the legitimate concern for our military and vets can amplify a serious national conversation on pain, that’s a very good thing,” said Dr. Bennett who is also a practicing interventional spine/pain medicine physician from Denver Colorado.

Forbes published an article recently that focuses on recommendations from the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health for assisting military veterans with pain management.

It recommended that large-scale collaborative research into pain management for U.S. veterans should:

  • assess the impact of pain on patient function and quality of life as primary outcome measures, with changes in the use of opioids and other drugs as a secondary outcome;
  • evaluate an integrated package of non-drug treatments, an integrative model of care, or a holistic approach to care rather than focusing on individual complementary health approaches;
  • focus on patients in the early stages of chronic pain; leverage natural experiments and existing resources whenever possible;
  • be pragmatic and embedded in the delivery of care.

“These recommendations are a start and not just for the military and veterans,” Dr. Bennett stressed. “What we can and should learn here should be able to be applied to the general population. We need to transform how  pain is understood, assessed and treated.”

Another story that was published this week, this one by the Washington Post talked about narcotic pain killers specifically and what is happening to thousands of veterans who depend on these prescription drugs to treat a variety of ailments including missing limbs and post-traumatic stress.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration decision last year to put tough new controls on certain pain killers has been topic a for chronic pain patients.

Many doctors have stopped seeing pain patients for fear of scrutiny, pharmacies have been criticized for not filling prescriptions and many patients are very upset because they cannot get what they believe are legitimate prescriptions written or fulfilled.

As National Pain Report columnist Kurt Matthies wrote recently:

“Friends, chronic pain is an epidemic and the sooner we face that fact, the sooner we can do something about it. As Dr. Lynn Webster recently remarked: ‘We need something like a Manhattan Project. We cannot ignore the millions of Americans whose lives are torn apart by pain or accept the large number of people who are harmed from opioids. After all, each reader of this article is likely to experience chronic pain or be close to someone who does. As of now, chronic pain has the power to alter lives forever. We need a societal commitment to find safer and more effective therapies for mankind’s primal enemy – pain.’”

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