For many years, the conventional medical wisdom was that if something hurt, you took a pain reliever. But time has allowed science to evolve beyond that point and has made a transition from masking pain to removing pain. New technology has helped in aiding this transition, a recent innovation being pain medication monitoring that helps practitioners and patients make smarter decisions about dosages.
Pain serves a biological purpose: It is your body’s way of informing you that something isn’t right. Imagine if you took a fall, breaking several ribs, but experienced no pain. You might not seek medical attention, and in time those fractures could lead to deadly complications like punctured lungs or a ruptured aorta.
Had there been pain to alert you to the seriousness of the situation, you would have sought care.
Throwing pills at pain has other complications as well. Daily use of pain medication can cause interactions with other medications that could trigger complications with diabetes, hypertension, and many other chronic conditions.
And that’s to say nothing of the potential for addiction to pain medication. Many patients slip into abusive dosage levels of prescribed pain medicine, and still others are victimized by addicts who learn of their conditions and perpetrate crimes against them to steal the medication. Pharmaceutical retailers and law enforcement also wage an ongoing war against prescription abusers.
But many people still require the long-term pain relief that could only come from opioids and other strong formulations. They have permanent damage or other chronic conditions that require some form of help in order to get through daily life. Fortunately for them, there are new technologies for acquiring the relief they need without the side effects of opioid painkillers.
Spinal cord stimulators are perhaps the most promising option. Pain is detected by nerves, which report it to the brain by way of the spinal cord. Spinal cord stimulators send a message to the spinal cord that interferes with the one being sent by the nerves, essentially shouting down the pain report.
The advantage of this system is that doctors can pinpoint which areas are to be muted, ensuring proper function of nerves in areas where new, unrelated pain may arise. It is not a simple or unobtrusive intervention, of course. The patient must be thoroughly reviewed and tested to ensure the procedure and the device will help.
During that research time, the patient may continue to suffer significant pain that could require oral pain relievers, injections, or other therapeutic steps to manage conditions until a definitive action can be taken.
The procedure may not be ideal for some patients who suffer even more severe pain. For example, terminal cancer patients may not be able to tolerate the needed surgery, and their pain may invade new areas as the cancer spreads.
For those who have suffered injuries in everything from sports to motor vehicle accidents to combat, the stimulators can drastically improve their quality of life and return them to work and family activities.