Alternatives might work better than drugs for pain

 

The solution to keeping patients from abusing prescription painkillers might be to deal with the pain itself and avoid the drugs, an Augusta pain physician said.

Dr. Richard S. Epter, the medical director of Augusta Pain Center, said the process that includes the patient’s medical history and an evaluation by a pain psychologist at the center, who can help spot those just looking for drugs. Often, they are there seeking an alternative, he said.

“A lot of patients are sent here by other physicians, or they come here because they wish to either decrease their need for medication or eliminate their need for medication,” he said. “What my goal is when somebody comes in here is not to just say, ‘Oh you’ve got back pain, let me give you some narcotics and mask the pain by making your brain cloudy.’ That is what the narcotics do. They don’t block the pain from coming in.”

The center has a number of approaches it can take, but often the goal is to try to carefully diagnose what the “pain generators” are for the patient and then block the pain at the site, Epter said.

For patient Sylvia Dunham, 63, of Lincolnton, her pain was an unquenchable burning and tingling in her feet that she was treating with several pain pills a day. After a referral to Augusta Pain Center, she eventually ended up with a spinal cord stimulator whose constant impulses block the pain transmission and give her relief. Since it was installed in 2008, she is off the pain pills and much more active.

“I have been moving ever since,” she said. Dunham now walks several miles every day and, after weighing 300 pounds at one point, has lost significant weight.

“I’ve lost right at 100 (pounds),” she said.

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