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Pain Awareness: 68% Indians Take Medication For Chronic Pain

Every year in September, organisations work to educate people and create Pain Awareness. The month is dedicated towards talking about different kinds of pain, their causes, treatment options and therapy. It’s done in a bid to improve the quality of life of someone living in pain. The Pain Awareness month was initiated in 2001 by the American Chronic Pain Association. It received support from health care professionals and consumer groups alike, because the invisible ailment is often ignored and overlooked.

What Is Pain?

Pain Awareness in Chronic Conditions - Breath And Beats

Often caused by injury, illness or an underlying medical condition, being in momentary pain until your body has a chance to heal is normal. What’s not normal is acute or chronic pain that is long-lasting and requires you to stay on medication for pain management.

This cyclical problem can lead to a high reliance on pain killers, depression, anxiety, stress, prolonged discomfort, low energy levels, among other things. This negative impact is often ignored for far too long. It may even turn into a disability if left unchecked.

The only way to deal with pain better is to create awareness around it. While it is symptomatic of a bigger problem, pain itself, can often be misconstrued as an exaggeration or a tantrum, even though a person may be really suffering.

Expert Speak: Dr Saipriya Tewari, Pain Medicine Consultant, Manipal Hospitals

Dr. Saipriya Tewari, Pain Awareness, Manipal Hospital - Breath And Beats

Pain is one of the biggest health problems today, with almost 30% individuals suffering from pain worldwide. Despite its ubiquity, pain is grossly under treated and greatly neglected by health care systems across the world.

Only this year, the International Classification of Disease, 11th revision (ICD-11) has proposed, for the first time, a coding system for Chronic Pain, thus improving the representation of painful disorders.

Pain Awareness: How Patients Deal With Pain

Quoting Robert J Wiersema, “The trouble with chronic pain is that it is so easy to become accustomed to it, both mentally and physically. At first, it is absolutely agonising. It’s the only thing you think about, like a rock in your shoe that rubs your foot raw with every step. Then the constant rubbing, the pain and the limp, all become part of the status quo; the occasional stabbing pain just a reminder. You are so set to endure, hunched against it – and when it starts to ease, you don’t really notice, until the absence washes over you like a balm”.

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According to Dr Tewari, most of the time patients ignore their pain and try to live with it. If it becomes unbearable, they go and buy ‘painkillers’ from the nearby pharmacy. It is known that as high as 68% of the Indian population takes over the counter drugs for chronic pain, 95% of that is NSAIDs.

Even preparations containing tramadol, which has been called “the dangerous opioid from India”, are easily and widely available. On the other hand, a large fraction of the patients suffering from cancer pain continue to be denied of getting adequate morphine for pain relief.

Did You Know? There Are Dedicated Pain Doctors

The science of medicine originated with an intent of relieving human suffering and pain.

Over centuries, we specialised and super-specialised, and now that arc has come full circle, giving birth to a super specialised branch dedicated to the management of pain: Pain Medicine. According to the American Society of Interventional Pain Physicians (ASIPP), it is a “discipline of medicine devoted to the diagnosis and treatment of pain related disorders”.

Most doctors practicing pain are anaesthesiologists, super-specialised as Pain Doctors. They have an important role to play in the multidisciplinary management of chronic pain conditions.

Pain Awareness: Treatment Options

Very few patients with chronic pain require actual surgery. Based on the reason for your underlying pain, a pain doctor may judiciously use various groups of pain medications, including opioids and anti-neuropathic drugs.

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They may also recommend minimally invasive techniques specifically designed to diagnose and treat painful conditions. Some of these may include including musculoskeletal injections, nerve root blocks, radio-frequency ablation of nerves, and neurolysis of nerve plexuses.

Most of these techniques are performed under C-arm or USG guidance, and are done as day care procedures. Advanced techniques like intrathecal pump and spinal cord stimulators are available at limited specialised centres. In addition, good rehabilitation and physiotherapy remains an integral part of managing most of these conditions.

Chronic pain can even lead to clinical depression, and psychological counselling for the emotional component of pain may sometimes be required. So, don’t ignore your mental health while working on your physical pain. The two must be tackled together in order to set you up on the road of recovery.

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