America Has Problems Dealing with Chronic Pain

Robert Bonakdar, MD, is Director of Pain Management at the Scripps Center for Integrative Medicine. In a recent editorial published in USA Today, he courageously disagrees with the United States Surgeon General’s campaign to reduce opioid drug dependencies through education and addiction awareness. The real problem, Dr. Bonkadar argues, is that there are other ways to manage chronic pain, but insurance companies won’t pay for them.

Chronic pain is a complex scenario that not only affects the back or shoulder, but one that over time can shrink the brain while creating or worsening fatigue, insomnia, depression, anxietyobesity and risk of suicide. The pain transformation called for by the IOM and most recently the National Pain Strategy requires not just a campaign, but an integrative, patient-centered approach to support someone whose entire existence is affected. – Dr. Robert Bonkadar[1]

The doctor does see signs of hope, however, that decision makers are beginning to understand the human benefits and corporate cost savings of pain management methods such as exercise and diet, biofeedback and nutrition, Tai Chi, yoga, acupuncture, CBT and mindfulness.

After focus groups with chronic pain patients found that ‘fix-it’ strategies were failing while also bankrupting the state, Rhode Island created the Ease the Pain Program, which uses case management and treatments like acupuncture, massage and manipulation. Similarly, starting this year, the Oregon state insurance program will cover acupuncture, CBT and more, based on findings that ‘lack of support for and knowledge of biopsychosocial pain self-management treatments are serious public health problems.’ [2]

If you are one of the 100 million Americans who suffer with chronic pain, I urge you to consider mindfulness meditation and other non-drug treatments as part of your pain management program.

 

Peace,

 

Dr. Pamm

[1] Robert Bonkadar, M.D., “Docs Need Help to Ease Opioid Epidemic,” USA Today, September 28, 2016.

[2] Ibid.