Research states that traditional pain management may worsen symptoms, and opioids are a staple in the treatment of chronic pain. In recent years doctors have increasingly prescribed them for acute injuries, such as bone fractures and outpatient surgeries such as the removal of wisdom teeth.
As the opioid epidemic is now widespread, ravaging small towns and big cities alike, individuals and doctors find themselves looking for non-opioid treatment options to address pain.
However, there are instances in which opioid prescriptions may be necessary. But how do doctors evaluate patients to determine the best course of action? Several factors affect the process, which the CDC clearly outlines. Ultimately, what medication a doctor prescribes is a judgment call based on patient interaction and their health history.
Understanding the Pain Scale
A pain scale is a standard tool that doctors use to assess a patient’s level of pain. There are three elements to the scale that provide insight into physical pain, quality of life, and the ability to participate in activities. Each aspect of the scale asks patients to rank their pain from 0 to 10.
1. Physical Pain
The physical pain scale asks patients to rate their pain on a scale of 0 to 10 throughout the past week. A score of 0 indicates no pain at all, while 10 indicates that the pain is “the worst you can imagine.” Since pain is subjective, it is hard to decide on this number alone.
2. Quality of Life
The quality of life scale asks patients to rate how much their pain interferes with their ability to enjoy the things around them. Things like family dinners, beautiful weather, or reading a good book. A score of 0 means that the pain does not interfere with their enjoyment of life at all. While a score of 10 indicates that a patient is unable to enjoy anything due to their symptoms.
3. General Activity
The third pain scale asks patients to rate how much pain interferes with activities such as going to work or school and completing daily tasks or obligations. Like the other two scales, a score of 0 indicates that a patient can complete all activities despite their pain, while a score of 10 means that they cannot achieve anything.
While understanding the pain scale is essential, it is not the only way that doctors and patients can decide if opioids are appropriate. Doctors must also evaluate risk factors for addiction and whether or not alternative treatment options can be effective.
The Opioid Risk Assessment
Today, more doctors are aware of the addictive effects of prescription opioids than they were just fifteen years ago. They often use a method of risk assessment known as The Opioid Risk Tool when evaluating a patient’s probability of becoming dependent on the medication.
The Opioid Risk Tool takes into consideration a patient’s history of drug and alcohol use, their family history of addiction, mental health disorders such as bipolar disorder, depression, or ADHD, and whether or not the patient exhibits signs of having PTSD. When used in conjunction with the pain scale, doctors gain a much better understanding of their patients and how opioid medications may affect them.
Natural Alternatives to Opioids
There are many natural alternatives to opioid medications. Doctors are encouraging patients to try alternative methods, and patients are seeking out natural treatments for medical conditions. CBD is changing the pain management industry, for example. Natural and non-addictive, it can be an excellent alternative.
Additionally, techniques like cryotherapy for pain relief may be more effective in the long-run for managing chronic pain. Other individuals are turning to acupuncture for pain management and using natural herbs like ginger to control pain. There’s a long list of herbs that help treat pain that is worth looking into if you’re seeking relief.
The Bottom Line
Whether or not a patient requires opioids as a form of treatment is a unique case-by-case basis. If a doctor determines that your risk factors outweigh the potential benefits of treatment, it’s better to stay away from the prescription unless necessary.
If you’re not into prescription pain killers for personal reasons and are looking for more holistic treatment options, ask your doctor about some of the ones listed in this article. Many individuals report GR8 success.