Balanced pain management offers an opportunity to better manage pain, control rising costs and reduce the potential for opioid abuse, explains a new white paper from the Alliance for Balanced Pain Management. But realizing the benefits of a balanced approach requires policymakers and insurers to first expand access to more personalized, comprehensive treatments.
Bringing Balance to Pain Management
Entitled “A Call for Understanding and Greater Access to Balanced Pain Management,” the white paper acknowledges that “just as there are different types and degrees of pain, there are different ways to treat it.”
Multimodal analgesia offers a patient-specific, balanced approach to treating acute pain, such as that caused by broken bones, surgery and childbirth. The approach combines two or more pain-relieving treatments or techniques – acting through different mechanisms – to provide better pain relief using fewer opioids.
With multimodal analgesia, a patient may receive some combination of IV acetaminophen (in hospital settings), antidepressants, steroids, nerve blocks, epidurals or prescription-strength forms of anti-inflammatory drugs. The approach can also include local injections of analgesia.
Integrated Care for Chronic Pain
Similarly, patients who experience chronic pain – such as low back pain, migraine headache or fibromyalgia – can also benefit from a comprehensive approach to pain management. “Opioids can be effective,” the paper acknowledges, “but they are hardly the only treatment strategy that should be considered.” Physical therapy and rehabilitation, as well as psychosocial treatments to address the emotional and social effects of pain, can complement the use of medication – including over-the-counter, prescription non-opioid and opioid treatments.
Access Barriers & Policy Solutions
Balanced pain management can help clinicians move away from a one-size-fits-all approach to pain management, which sometimes favors an opioid-only approach despite patients’ unique needs. One driver behind that approach may be health insurance and hospital formularies that favor low-cost treatments such as generic opioids. Another cause, the paper argues, is health coverage that steers patients toward the lowest-cost treatment through techniques such as step therapy. Despite the upfront expense, a balanced approach can lower care costs over the long term by better managing pain and reducing opioid-related adverse events.
With updated formularies, improved insurance coverage and more education, patients and their health care providers can achieve better pain management. The approach can also aid national efforts to curb the opioid abuse epidemic.
Safe Use & Disposal
Finally, no conversation about pain management is complete without discussing the safe use and disposal of pain medications. The white paper acknowledges the importance of safe prescribing, comprehensive labeling, and safeguards such as medicine cabinet inventories, safe storage and responsible disposable of unused drugs.
To learn more, read “A Call for Understanding and Greater Access to Balanced Pain Management.”