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Voice of the People

Jan. 12, 2013 @ 12:14 AM

Alternative pain treatments could curb drug abuse

Much attention has focused on the Tri-State's rampant drug problem. A large proportion of this is related to prescription drug abuse. This is not completely unexpected, owing to the high proportion of patients with chronic back and joint pain, and sometimes enigmatic search for adequate treatment. Myriad reasons exist for pain stemming from arthritis and aging, cancer-related pain, trauma and psychosocial influences.

Unfortunately, "pain" and its treatment have become somewhat of an anathema to society. Many individuals have succumbed to addiction either through legitimate or illegitimate uses of pain medication. Occasionally health care practitioners have contributed to this epidemic either knowingly or unknowingly. As a physician who treats these patients on a daily basis, I am here to say that alternatives do exist.

With a public health issue as prevalent as pain, a more holistic approach can offer an alternative. Not always are "pain pills" required for treatment, although this modality certainly has a role. For example, many types of low back pain arise from mechanical and neurological origins such as facet joint arthritis, disc degeneration, spinal stenosis and muscular strain. Likewise joint pain can arise from chronic degeneration.

Many of these conditions can improve significantly with lifestyle modifications such as weight loss, smoking cessation and regular exercise. Behavioral counseling, non-narcotic medicine alternatives, physical therapy and chiropractic care may prove useful. Many individuals benefit from acupuncture and massage therapy. Many interventional techniques exist such as injection therapy, nerve stimulation and surgery.

The often mistaken stigma associated with pain and the fear of addiction should not deter one from seeking help. A patient should take a proactive role in treatment and ask questions of the health care provider. Regardless of the cause and prognosis, it is paramount to remember non-addictive options do exist. Most importantly, one must maintain hope.

Dr. Joseph M. DeLapa II

Ashland, Ky.

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