Pain Management and Medication Safety
You’ve probably heard about the opioid epidemic—115 Americans die every day from opioid overdose. But if you have a chronic pain condition, you may have been prescribed a heavy-duty painkiller to help you manage your symptoms.
However, in recent months, many doctors have been making the switch from opioids to non-opioids for pain management, so it may also be the case that the pain medication you’ve been taking for years is about to change. Managing your pain comes hand-in-hand with managing your medication. Miss a dose, and your symptoms may get worse. Take the wrong dose and risk serious injury or illness. So how can you ensure you’re following your doctor’s advice in managing your symptoms and your prescriptions?
Pain specialists, counselors, and physical therapists can help you manage your pain without (or even to supplement) a prescription. If you’re nervous about taking medications for pain management, even if they’re non-opioids, your doctor might recommend:
- Physical therapy; physical therapists offer a wide variety of pain management techniques to help patients who are dealing with chronic pain, including strength and flexibility exercises, posture training, use of heat and cold, biofeedback, ultrasound, and electrical stimulation.
- Exercise regimen; exercise reduces pain by strengthening our body and improving flexibility. It also causes our bodies to release natural chemicals into the bloodstream that reduce the amount of pain we feel. Yoga, tai chi, and other low-impact exercises are great for seniors. Ask your doctor for a “prescription” for an exercise program that’s tailored for your specific health condition and needs.
- Pain specialists; these medical professionals have increasingly effective diagnostic tools to evaluate the causes of a patient’s pain, and to recommend individualized treatment. Pain isn’t a one-size-fits-all issue.
- Counseling; counselors can help us manage the mental aspect of pain. Pain isn’t “all in our head,” but how we think about pain does make a difference. Stress and anxiety magnify the perception of pain. Counselors help patients break the cycle of pain and anxiety by learning to think about pain in a different way.
Some seniors who experience chronic pain need medication to manage it; however, seniors are also some of the most at-risk patients for side effects like damage to organs such as the kidneys and liver and issues like nausea and dizziness, which can lead to an increased risk and rate of falls and subsequent injury. If you are taking a prescription for your pain, always be sure to…
- Take your medications as prescribed. If the dose, timing, or instructions don’t work for you, talk to your doctor.
- Review your prescriptions with your doctor, especially if they aren’t meeting your needs or if symptoms have changed.
- Be aware of side effects! This is especially true if you’re taking several medications at the same time. Medications can interact with one another in deadly ways!
- If you’re taking two or more prescriptions, create a system to help you manage them both. Pill charts, boxes, and other such devices can help you keep your medications straight.
Your LifeSource Home Health aide will also help you manage your medications and ensure that you’re taking the appropriate amount at the right time. If you have a habit of forgetting if you’ve taken your medication for the day, your home health aide will be able to help you remember! They can also report side effects and changes in your health if you’re starting a new prescription or stopping one.
Pain medication can be scary to some because of all the recent news about the dangers of opioids. However, with proper management through your LifeSource Home Health aide and your doctor, you can rest a little easier knowing experts have your back.