Posted in aches, Arthritis, Chronic lower back pain, chronic pain, Coping with Chronic Pain, Inflammation, Knee pain, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Surgeries

Relief Options for Chronic Pain

PART 3  –  OPIOIDS

Except for Marijuana, controversy surrounds Opioids more than any of the previous medications discussed in Parts 1 and 2. Suicides, accidental overdoses, and misuse of Opioids by prominent celebrities fill the headlines and invoke a strong media reaction. This escalated attention cautions healthcare physicians to seek other options for their patients.

The American Academy of Pain Medicine, National Institutes and Health, American Chiropractic Association, and American Society of Addiction Medicine provide chronic pain and prescription opioids statistics. These statistics cover the United States only:

Chronic pain statistics indicate more people suffer from pain than the combination of diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Excluding acute pain conditions and children suffering from pain, 50 million to 100 million adults suffer from chronic pain. Of those adults, 27% seek treatment for lower back pain, 15% for severe headaches to migraine pain, and another 15% for neck pain. Alarmingly, these numbers continue to grow daily.

Research of the prescription pain pill epidemic for 2015 shows 20,404 people died from Opioids overdoses. Prescription opioids account for substance abuse disorders by two million people. Increased national crime, pharmacy burglaries, and overdose deaths were tied to Opioids abuse.

Since the rise of prescription drug overdoses, especially prescription Opioids, views have changed among healthcare providers for prescribing Opioids for the treatment of chronic pain. However, Opioids are prescribed in cases of short-term to help patients recover from fractures or post surgery.

Your primary care physician will no longer prescribe Opioids for moderate to severe chronic pain. Instead, you’ll be referred to a Pain Management Facility where specialists evaluate and monitor prescriptions of Opioids.

Many chronic pain patients find themselves suffering more and receiving little or no assistance of treatment for their pain due to the abuse and misuse epidemic. As the fear of overdosing heightens many physicians, including specialists, seek other options to treat chronic pain. Physical therapy, minimally invasive procedures, and lifestyle changes are the preferred options. However, these options, exhausted by most chronically ill patients, bring little to no relief.

So, how do chronic pain patients find relief? If Opioids are the only option available for severe chronic pain then understanding the risks involved with these drugs is mandatory. The specialists associated with Paindoctor.com (and most pain management specialists) treat chronically ill patients using a 12-step Opioid Checklist to ensure patient safety. (You can find the risks of Opioids listed after the checklist.)

Taking Opioids is a risk. But most chronic pain sufferers take that risk to acquire a fraction of the quality of life they enjoyed prior to the onset of chronic pain.

What are Opioid medications?

As the oldest known class of drugs in the world, Opioids refer to either morphine or other opium poppy-based medications – narcotics. Opioids suppress the pain perception by reducing pain signals as they are transmitted through the nervous system.

Below are some types of Opioids (and their generics) used for chronic pain treatment. ALL of these medications require a prescription.

Hydrocodone (Hysingla ER, Zohydro ER)

-*Hydrocodone/acetaminophen (Lorcet, Lortab, Norco, Vicodin)

Hydromorphone (Dilaudid, Exalgo)

Oxycodone (Oxycontin, Oxecta, Roxicodone)

-*Oxycodone and Acetaminophen (Percocdet, Endocet, Roxicet)

Oxycodone and Naloxone (Targiniq ER)

Morphine (Astramorph, Avinza, Kadian, MS Contin, Ora-Morph SR)

Meperidine (Demerol)

Methadone (Dolophine, Methadose)

Fentanyl (Actiq, Duragesic, Fentora)

Codeine (only available in generic form)

(*Includes Acetaminophen in the compound. Avoid other products containing acetaminophen (ex: Tylenol) due to increased risk of liver problems.)

For pain relief all day and through the night your doctor may prescribe specific doses of your pain medication. However, there is a chance you may experience “breakthrough” pain. Breakthrough pain is a flare of pain experienced even though you receive round-the-clock pain medication.1 In this case, you may be given a prescription with “as needed” instructions.

Regular visits to the pain specialist are a requirement of care if you are prescribed Opioids. These visits include questions asked by your specialist:

          1. Are you responding to the Opioid?
          2. Are you experiencing any side effects?
          3. Have you developed a medical condition or potential interaction that may increase the risk of side effects?
          4. Are you taking the medication as directed?2

NOTE:  Never change the dosing of any Opioid medication without first checking with your physician. If your pain isn’t managed by the medication prescribed, your physician may change the dose or try another Opioid drug.

Opioids can be dangerous if taken with 1) antidepressants, 2)antihistamines, and/or 3)sleeping pills. Be sure your doctor knows all medicines you are taking. Other prescription drugs, over-the-counter drugs, and herbal supplements may cause additional problems when taken with Opioids.

When you’re ready to quit the Opioids, your pain specialist will advise a slow weaning off from the Opioids to help your body adjust to the removal of the pain medications. Withdrawal symptoms occur if you stop the Opioids abruptly.

As reviewed in Parts 1 & 2 of this series, most medications have side effects and Opioids are no different. Common side effects include:

*Constipation                       *Sedation

*Fatigue                                 *Nausea

*Vomiting                              *Confusion

*Dry Mouth                           *Constricted pupils (miosis)

*Itching (pruritis)

However, there are more serious side effects including:

**Urinary retention              **Hearing loss

**Respiratory depression    **Hallucination

**Hypothermia                       **Delirium

**Hyperalgesia (increased sensitivity to pain)

**Abnormal heartbeats (arrhythmias)

LARGE doses can induce:

***Serious respiratory problems              ***Depression

***Oxygen deprivation                                ***Unconsciousness

***Overdose                                                   ***Death

Taking Opioids for the long-term may cause tolerance, dependency, and/or addiction.

Tolerance occurs when the need for Opioids causes increasing the dosages.

Dependence is a physical or psychological effect. A physical dependency occurs when you (abruptly) stop taking your Opioid medications resulting in a withdrawal syndrome. Psychological dependency occurs as an emotional need for the drug when there is no physical need.

A small percentage of patients who use Opioids long-term may suffer from addiction.3 The characterization of addiction is a constant pattern of inappropriate Opioid use and may include the following serious problems:

    • Loss of control of using Opioids
    • A preoccupation of acquiring more Opioids even though pain relief is achieved
    • Although adverse physical, psychological, or social consequences may occur, the patient continues using Opioids
    • Overdose and death increases as an adverse effect

Should you take Opioids? If you suffer from moderate to severe pain, Opioid drugs can make a significant difference in your pain levels. However, you must take them safely and follow your doctor’s instructions carefully to avoid the negative effects of Opioids.

Next week, we’ll explore Marijuana and its treatment of chronic pain. Have a great week!

1Opioid (Narcotic) Pain Medications article, WebMD, LLC, 2017

2Opioid (Narcotic) Pain Medications article, WebMD Medical Reference, Minesh Khari,MD, April 30, 2017

3What are Opioid Medications? Article, paindoctor.com

 

.

Posted in Arthritis, Chronic lower back pain, chronic pain, Inflammation, Knee pain, Muscle and joint stiffness, Rheumatoid Arthritis

Options for Pain Relief

PART 2

Exploring Anticonvulsants, Muscle Relaxants, and Corticosteroids

In part one of this series of Options for Pain Relief, I wrote about NSAIDs, acetaminophen, and antidepressants. This post focuses on anticonvulsants (anti-seizure) medications, muscle relaxants, and corticosteroids. Because there is so much information regarding Opioids and Marijuana for treatment of chronic pain, I’ve decided to write two separate posts for each of these. The next post (Part 3) will be devoted to the pros, cons, and debates of Opioid use for chronic pain treatment.

Now, let’s discover how anticonvulsants, muscle relaxants, and corticosteroids are used as a relief for chronic pain.

ANTICONVULSANT (antiseizure) MEDICATIONS

Anticonvulsant medications are used for specific types of nerve pain (burning, shooting pain) and must be taken on a daily basis or as prescribed by your physician. Whether pain is experienced or not, this medication must be taken as directed for maximum results. This medication is not intended for an “as needed” dosage.

Some common side effects include sleepiness (which may improve the longer the medication is taken) and weight gain (one reason I stopped taking this medication), dizziness, and fatigue. If you suffer from kidney stones or glaucoma tell your doctor as anticonvulsants are not recommended for patients with these conditions. Newer anticonvulsant drugs do not require liver monitoring, however, if you have a kidney disease use caution when taking this medication.

Anticonvulsants are another example of a medication that is developed to treat one condition and is used to relieve the symptoms of an entirely different condition. Dual purpose anticonvulsants help patients manage their seizures while also helping chronic pain patients manage their pain. Studies provide conflicting views of treating chronic pain with anticonvulsants. Although there are studies advising other forms of treatment for chronic pain, other studies indicate that anticonvulsants are vital for managing chronic pain because of fewer long-term side effects.

Listed below are frequently prescribed Generic forms of anticonvulsants: (the brand name is noted in parenthesis)

  1. Gabapentin (Neurontin)*
  2. Carbamazepine (Tegretol)*
  3. Pregabalin (Lyrica)
  4. Phenytoin (Dilantin)
  5. Topiramate (Topomax)

*FDA approved the medication for treating chronic pain.

Many patients experience lower pain levels with anticonvulsants. Your doctor may use the trial-and-error method to find the drug form and dosage that treats your pain. Be sure to inform your doctor of side effects other than those he advised when taking anticonvulsants. Read the paperwork accompanying your medicine thoroughly, making note of any restrictions (no alcohol, etc.) while taking this medication.

*******

MUSCLE RELAXANTS

In the United States alone, an estimate of $100 Billion is spent annually for chronic pain management.  And among the numerous forms of chronic pain, one form is the Musculoskeletal pain. Its symptoms and discomfort are felt within the muscles, nerves, tendons, bones, and ligaments of the body. These symptoms may develop as an acute onset (rapidly and grow to severity quickly) or as chronic pain (slowly and long-lasting.) Like most chronic pain, Musculoskeletal pain that continues for three months or more is considered ‘chronic.’

Chronic musculoskeletal pain may be widespread or centered in one area of the body. Some of the more common parts of the body include lower back pain, myalgia (muscle pain), tendinitis, and stress fractures. The causes are as varied as the types of musculoskeletal pains – injury, overuse, poor posture, arthritis, and/or prolonged confinement.

To effectively treat the symptoms of pain and discomfort muscle relaxant medications may be used. Unlike their name, muscle relaxant drugs don’t act on the muscles themselves. Instead, the impact of the effects center on the central and peripheral nervous system.

Reported symptoms treated with muscle relaxants include:

  1. Bone Pain (dull, deep, penetrating pain)
  2. Connective Tissue Pain (felt within tendons or ligaments)
  3. Muscle Pain (less intense than Bone Pain, but causes range from injury to tumor)
  4. Tunnel Syndromes (result from compression of nerves)
  5. Joint Pain (aching, stiffness, swelling or burning within a joint(s))
  6. Fibromyalgia (ligament, tendon, muscle pain)

The most commonly prescribed muscle relaxant medications are Baclofen, Carisoprodol, and Chlorzoxazone. All three work on the central nervous system, but each is prescribed for different pain problems. Baclofen is prescribed for muscle spasticity which occurs as a result of multiple sclerosis and spinal cord injuries. Carisoprodol is more commonly prescribed for the treatment of several musculoskeletal system disorders that cause acute pain. And Chlorzoxazone is typically prescribed for lower back pain and muscle spasms. Only one of these medications have received rare reports of acute liver injury. Chlorzoxazone use may be associated with liver injury, but, again these reports are rare.

However, two muscle relaxant drugs have been associated with causing acute liver damage (severe to fatal.) If you are prescribed either of these drugs, speak to your doctor extensively regarding this warning. The drugs are:

Dantroline (for chronic spasticity)   and

Tizanidine  (for acute symptoms of muscle spasms or chronic muscle spasticity)

The normal side effects of dizziness, drowsiness, and headaches accompany most of the drugs mentioned above. As with all medications prescribed or discussed in your doctor’s office, research the side effects online if your doctor fails to discuss them with you. It is your right to know exactly what you are putting into your body and the effects that may accompany those medications.

*******

CORTICOSTEROIDS

Administered in the form of a pill, a topical cream, or an injection, another class of anti-inflammatory drugs is Corticosteroids. As a stronger drug used to control severe swelling and pain, corticosteroids are prescribed for specific pain conditions. They were created to act like the natural steroids in your body. By altering the immune system, they control inflammation that causes decreased movement and pain in most joints and muscle tissues.

These drugs are periodically administered to treat cases of acute pain or flare-ups. Another common treatment is chronic swelling in the tendons and joints. To reduce pain and escalate joint and tissues flexibility, corticosteroids are used for the following conditions:

*Osteoarthritis

*Rheumatoid arthritis

*Synovitis

*Tendonitis

Common types of corticosteroids:

**Hydrocortisone

**Prednisone

**Methylprednisone

**Cortisone

And the possible side effects include:

-Headaches

-Nausea or vomiting

-Sleep problems

-Dizziness

-Changes in the skin (acne, redness, increased hair growth)

-Mental changes (anxiety, mood swings, depression

Again, let your doctor know of any extreme side effects including hands, feet, or face swelling, eye pain or other visual changes, a rash that will not disappear, new muscle pain/weakness, and/or tarry bowel movements.

Corticosteroids do work but injections are limited to a maximum number every six to twelve months each year. Pills are given in large increments and dwindle down to nothing in a matter of six to ten days. And topical creams are usually applied as needed or per your doctor’s orders. Be sure to talk extensively with your healthcare physician to understand the side effects and the likelihood you’ll receive pain relief with corticosteroids.

Next week I will post Part 3 of Options for Pain Relief – Opioids. Thank you for your patience and I hope you enjoy reading this information!

Carolyn