We’re all human beings, but we’re not all alike.
Each person experiences pain differently, from an emotional perspective as well as a physical one, and responds to pain differently. That means that physicians like myself need to evaluate patients on an individual basis and find the best way to treat their pain.
Today, however, doctors are under pressure to limit costs and prescribe treatments based on standardized guidelines. A major gap looms between the patient’s experience of pain and the limited “one size fits all” treatment that doctors may offer.
Concerns about the opioid epidemic make the problem worse. Opioids – including heroin and fentanyl – killed more than 42,000 people in the U.S. in 2016. Four in 10 of these deaths involved prescription painkillers such as hydrocodone and oxycodone. Physicians are increasingly reluctant to prescribe opioids for pain, fearing government scrutiny or malpractice lawsuits.
Where does this leave the patient whose experience of pain is outside the norm? How can physicians in all specialties identify these patients and do our best to manage their pain, even when their needs don’t match our expectations or experience?