A recent poll from the University of Michigan's Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation suggests that American adults, particularly those between the ages of 50 and 80, do not fully understand pain treatment options. The poll focused heavily on arthritis pain, but the results could probably be extrapolated to cover nearly all types of pain.
As we have discussed in other blog posts, pain is an ongoing problem in the U.S. When pain is minor and merely inconvenient, we can deal with it until it goes away. But what about more serious pain? What about chronic pain that threatens to be a life-long problem?
Pain clinics exist to help patients manage their pain and find relief. Likewise, pain medicine is a specialty designed to treat pain in a way that internal medicine and primary care cannot. But could it be that we aren't utilizing pain clinics to their full potential? The poll would seem to suggest that.
The poll was designed to query a sample of Americans between the ages of 50 and 80 about their experiences with arthritis pain. The poll was conducted between January and February 2022. Here are some of the things it revealed:
In addition, 74% said they believed arthritis and joint pain are a normal part of aging. Approximately 80% were at least somewhat confident they could manage arthritis pain on their own. Interestingly, about 18% said that there is nothing they can do to alleviate joint pain symptoms.
Respondents cited a number of medications they use to manage arthritis pain. Over the counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) were the most cited at 66%. Others reported using steroid-based medications, non-opioid pain medications, and alternative pain treatment options including substances like glucosamine and chondroitin.
The most interesting aspect of this part of the study was the role doctors played in helping their patients understand the risks of the medications they were taking. Only 40% of the respondents were confident their doctors had discussed medication risks. A stunning 53% reported having no such discussions with their providers.
We could continue dissecting poll data to fill out the rest of this post, but let us get to the point: the data clearly indicates that arthritis patients don't fully understand their treatment options. They are given many options but few answers. This is not good.
Living with chronic arthritis pain is bad enough by itself. But not knowing how to find relief from that pain makes an already uncomfortable condition worse. Patients need answers. They want answers.
Unfortunately, we are in this position because of the way traditional medicine approaches pain management. Western practitioners look at pain as a symptom to be treated. The only treatments they will recommend are those deemed scientific in nature. Western medical science completely dismisses plant-based medicine and other ancient treatments because there are no scientific documents to back them up. That's a mistake.
Both plant-based and holistic medicine have a long history of helping people manage a full range of medical conditions – including pain. Not only that, but plant-based medicine is also a more natural approach that doesn't carry with it the same risks that come with traditional medicine.
Our pain clinics exist to help patients find relief and manage their pain over the long term. That notwithstanding, it would appear as though patients do not fully understand their treatment options. That needs to change.