Posted by Christine Foster on February 17, 2017
In Part One we examined the issues around opioid addiction and dependence for injured workers. In this article, we will look at alternative treatment options for work related injuries.
Chronic pain affects more Americans than cancer, heart disease and diabetes combined. Despite making up less than 5% of the world population, the US consumes 80% of the world’s opioid pain medication. Many of the injured workers we see fall into the category of having chronic pain which can often lead to opioid dependency.
Some experts believe over-prescribing and overusing pain medications has put us in an opioid addiction crisis as a nation. They point to a variety of treatments that use an alternative approach to pain management. Here’s a look at a few:
Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT): CBT can be used in combination with other treatments to help patients alleviate depression and pain by developing coping mechanisms. It can also identify negative thoughts or attitudes toward pain and provide tools to reduce patients’ focus on pain.
Biofeedback: Biofeedback Therapy can be used to help patients identify their biological reactions to pain. By attaching sensors or electrodes that send signals to monitors, patients can see their stress responses in their blood pressure, heart rate, skin temperature, muscle activity, and breathing rate. Once they’ve identified their physical reactions a biofeedback therapist can assist with relaxation exercises such as guided imagery, meditation, deep breathing, as well as many others. This approach is designed to reduce the patient’s focus on their pain, as well as change their attitude towards it.
Hypnosis Analgesia: Hypnosis can often be put in the same category as biofeedback therapy and has been seen to have approximately the same success rates. However, hypnosis does not require the specialized equipment necessary for biofeedback and can often be more accessible to patients through recordings making it less costly. In theory, hypnosis can work by giving patients ways to manage their pain by first making them aware of the underlying causes and sources of their pain.
Exercise: Exercise programs such as yoga or tai chi have been shown to effectively help with easing chronic pain. These are often low-impact, strengthening exercises that include some form of meditation or mindfulness. While patients with chronic pain should consult their doctors before beginning an exercise program, research shows that people who exercise manage their pain much better than those who don’t.
While these therapies can often be a helpful alternative to opioid prescriptions, there is still a real need for pain medication in some cases. In Part Three, we will examine new ways doctors and hospitals are prescribing pain medication in an effort to combat the opioid addiction crisis.
If you have suffered a work-related injury or illness and have questions or concerns about your workers’ compensation benefits or your legal rights and entitlements, contact Foster Law, PC to schedule a free initial consultation. We are attorneys in Seattle, Washington with specific expertise in workers' compensation law and can help ensure that you receive the benefits you deserve. Call 206-682-3436 or fill out our online contact form for more information.