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Chronic Pain: Work with Your Doctor

by Health After 50  

Chronic pain can be debilitating, so it’s important to find the right balance between pain relief and functional quality of life. If you’re currently taking an opioid for chronic pain other than cancer pain, consider reassessing your need for the drug with your doctor. He or she may be able to taper your drug so your pain is managed at a lower dose, reducing your risk for adverse affects. You should also discuss trying other options for managing your pain, such as combining a lower dose with a nondrug therapy.

There’s a fine line between the benefits and harms of using opioids to control chronic pain. It’s critical to set realistic treatment goals. Prescription opioids are just one of many tools for managing pain. Ask your doctor about ways to ease pain without using opioids. Consider the trade-offs if you decide to use opioids. For example, opioids may relieve your pain, but they may sedate you to the point where you can no longer drive or think clearly.

It’s a good idea to develop a pain management plan with your doctor. The plan should include realistic treatment goals and aim to preserve your quality of life. Meet with your doctor regularly to assess your pain and function.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that opioids are safe merely because a doctor prescribes them. In fact, 27 percent of people who use prescription opioids for nonmedical purposes 200 days or more a year—which puts them at the highest risk of overdose—obtain them as doctors’ prescriptions, according to a survey by the CDC.