Pain Management: A Complex Problem for a One-Dimensional Approach

Though it may vary in frequency and intensity, most everyone feels pain. What’s more is that most people recognize the variety of options there are for getting rid of pain in their day-to-day lives – whether it’s a bath for a sore back, ointment on a burn, or balm on aching muscles.

So why isn’t that variety reflected in Canadian hospitals? Considering the number of different approaches to pain, one would think that a place where pain is found most of all would have a plethora of methods to deal with discomfort – and yet, this is profoundly not the case. Sadly, the Canadian medical system tends to have a one-track mind when it comes to pain management, with it’s default (and sometimes only) option being prescription pain medication.

The problem with having so strong a preference for prescription pain killers is that they are associated with a myriad of problems. Opioids especially are strongly linked to addiction, and require consistent increases in dosage to continue providing relief even when a dependence is not present. They are also associated with a large number of side effects, so much so that the disadvantages of the drugs frequently outweigh their benefits.

Prescription pain killers are prescribed with incredible frequency to both chronic pain sufferers and those dealing with temporary discomfort. Canada has one of the highest rates of prescribing opioids in the world – which may be unsurprising considering the lack of other pain relief options offered through mainstream health facilities like hospitals and clinics.

While some hospitals are trying to expand the number of alternative health care options available to their patrons, a study in British Columbia found that most people found their doctors “unaware” of most alternative therapies and many also found that natural health practitioners like naturopaths were cut off from the world of mainstream health care – unable to provide referrals or access their patients in hospital.

There are a wide array of pain management options in the world of natural medicine ranging from acupuncture to massage therapy to meditation. These have absolutely minimal side effects but can have astronomical results, providing a safe alternative to prescription pain medication. Increased awareness and availability of these therapies would be of enormous benefit to both hospital patients and workers. The more options available, the more likely it is that the diverse population of patients will have their needs met and be able to heal faster and more comfortably.

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