NEW CANAAN, Conn. – An estimated 100 million Americans suffer with chronic pain. While painkillers are useful when it comes to treating acute pain, they aren’t affective for treating Chronic Pain Syndrome, a condition with physical, psychological and behavioral symptoms.
“With Chronic Pain Syndrome, pain is no longer just pain; it’s suffering both physically and mentally.” says Chris Cutter, program director of the Chronic Pain and Recovery Center at Silver Hill Hospital in New Canaan. “Over time, pain takes over a person’s life and it is all they can think about.”
Symptoms of Chronic Pain Syndrome include sleep disturbance, muscle deconditioning, depression, chemical dependence or drug addiction, social isolation, anxiety, legal problems, unemployment, changes in appetite, and sexual dysfunction. The person may also catastrophize pain by saying “my knee is killing me” rather than “my knee hurts.” Cutter said.
Pain magnification is a red flag. When it comes to treatment, a pill isn’t the best solution, he said. Painkillers don’t effectively treat Chronic Pain Syndrome because they don’t address the psychological and behavioral aspects of the syndrome.
“A person’s pain is worsened by depression, anxiety, social isolation and other symptoms that go along with Chronic Pain Syndrome; painkillers don’t help these things,’ says Cutter. “If those symptoms are ignored, the pain worsens and the quality of life continues to decline.”
The biggest risk associated with opioid pain medications is dependence and addiction. In 2014, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reported almost 2 million Americans abused or were dependent on prescription opioids. Also, 1 in 4 people struggle with an addiction to these drugs. Even if taken as prescribed, these painkillers are highly addictive, which is why it’s best to take the lowest dose or avoid them all together if possible.
“When a person comes to the Silver Hill Chronic Pain and Recovery Center for treatment, we focus on treating the whole person, not just physical pain,” says Cutter. “Often when people are dealing with chronic pain, they lose sight of anything good in their life so we provide each patient with the following eight tips to help them cope.”
The tips won’t get rid of the physical pain, but they help patients focus on the positives in their lives, which in turn takes attention away from the pain by putting more emphasis on the present moment.
For more information on the Chronic Pain and Recovery Center treatment program and to see the treatment outcomes, visit www.silverhillhospital.org .