Initiatives to address pain treatment strategies in the wake of the nation’s opioid epidemic were announced recently when The Joint Commission, an independent, not-for-profit organization that accredits and certifies nearly 21,000 health care organizations and programs in the United States, created new and revised standards on pain assessment and management for hospitals.
The standards, which will become effective January 1, 2018, will require accredited hospitals to:
- identify pain assessment and pain management strategies, including nonparhamalogic pain treatment modalities and safe opioid prescribing.
- develop and monitor performance improvement activities.
- actively involve a leader or leadership team as well as staff and licensed independent practitioners with educational resources and programs to improve pain assessment, pain management, and patient safety.
Not every patient is alike. A treatment that works for some may not work for others. Another new standard is for hospitals to involve patients in developing their treatment plans and setting realistic expectations and measurable goals. This can help healthcare providers identify drug-free modalities that may work before offering prescriptions.
Nonpharmacologic options can include physical, occupational, vocation, and psychological approaches to pain management. Alternative therapies like massage, acupuncture, physical therapy, relaxation techniques (including aromatherapy and meditation), and practicing yoga have been proven to be beneficial in the treatment of chronic pain.
Massage therapy for example, can be an effective pain and health management treatment for a variety of chronic conditions like neck and back pain, sports injuries, jaw pain, fibromyalgia, and carpal tunnel.
Essential oils provide a natural benefit on our mental, physical, and emotional well-being. And when used in conjunction with massage therapy, aromatherapy includes a combination of topical and inhaled treatment that can help relieve pain and aid in relaxation.
Yoga can play a big part in a person’s overall health and wellness program, but it can also counteract chronic pain by reducing pain perception. Studies have shown that decreased gray matter in the brain is linked to chronic pain. Yoga can help maintain white brain matter, which offsets the decreases in gray matter.
These contemporary clinical guidelines and best practices for pain assessment and management are a positive step forward by hospitals to help combat our nation’s opioid epidemic, but it’s also important for patients and sufferers of chronic pain to ask their physician’s directly about drug-free pain management alternatives.
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