We don’t normally talk about TV shows at the National Pain Report, but a new plot twist on the USA Network’s Royal Pains caught our eye — because it dealt with chronic pain and the prescribing of pain medication.
Royal Pains is a dramatic show about concierge doctors in the Hamptons, starring Mark Feurstein as Dr. Hank Lawson.
It’s the Dr. Lawson character who appears to become addicted to pain medication, as he is suffering from persistent post-surgical pain.
The National Pain Report’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Dan Bennett thinks it’s a good thing Hollywood is addressing the issue.
“It is always good to see Hollywood tackle the pain medication issue in its programming,” said Dr. Bennett. “While viewers understand that Royal Pains is merely a fictional story, a good script can get people thinking and talking about complex issues, in this case, pain.”
Bennett, who is an interventional spine and pain management physician in Denver, Colorado, thinks the story premise makes a lot of sense, too. He believes that post-surgical pain can be difficult for physicians and patients to manage.
Bennett stresses this is where good communication between a surgeon and patient comes in.
Questions a patient should think about include:
- What type of pain do most patients complain of following surgery? This allows you to begin preparing for the post-surgical pain in an informed way.
- Is there something that I can do prior to surgery to decrease the pain I will have following surgery?
- Should my pain medicine physician be involved with my post-surgical pain care?
In the Royal Pains program, Dr. Lawson’s colleague, Dr. Jeremiah Sacani (played by Ben Shenkman), is reluctant to increase the amount of pain medication that he is prescribing for Dr. Lawson, who is struggling with rationing his medication.
We don’t know where the plot line will take us, but it should be interesting.
In real life, Dr. Bennett sees danger in a friend of a doctor prescribing for his colleague.
“As a general rule a physician should not become involved in the pain management of anyone when they are too close to the situation,” Bennett emphasized.
“This allows a physician to be as objective as possible when making decisions to treat pain that might compromise the overall well being of the individual suffering or about to suffer from the pain. When in doubt, call in an outside physician who is expert in the treatment of pain to be involved.”
Despite some holes in the script, Dr. Bennett likes the story line. He has been treating chronic pain patients for 30 years and has been a leader in trying to improve the treatment of chronic pain.
“Physicians learned decades ago, in the care of trauma patients, that not treating pain can actually make the situation worse, in some cases even hastening death,” Bennett said.
“Under-treatment of pain following surgery can have very bad consequences. When the human body is subjected to untreated pain, it thinks it is under attack. Not adequately treating pain causes the body to produce ‘stress hormones’, activating a brain-body response that actually prevents healing.”
We’ll have to wait and see how Dr. Lawson fares. Royal Pains airs Wednesday night on USA Network.