Chronic Pain Management: Expert Answers to Your Aching Questions

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Chronic pain affects millions of people in the U.S. and is often linked with a variety of health issues that can devastate a person’s quality of life. The truth is, modern medicine has few answers for this major problem. As a result, people with chronic pain often turn to pain management experts or anesthesiologists hoping to find relief and answers to aching questions. Most patients come to the realization they need to find other ways to cope and recover their ideal quality of life. But what happens when you don’t have a choice in treatment options or your choices are very limited? Fortunately, we have experts to help us understand some of these issues.

Joining Andrew Schorr for this Patient Power program are two very knowledgeable chronic pain experts. Dr. Robert Gatchel serves as clinical research program director of the Eugene McDermott Center for Pain Management at The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and Chairman of the Department of Psychology College of Science at the University of Texas at Arlington. Our second guest is Dr. Michael Schatman, a clinical psychologist at Overlake Hospital Medical Center in Bellevue, Washington. Dr. Gatchel and Dr. Schatman share their expertise for a much-needed discussion about the status of multidisciplinary approaches and how options for patients are becoming more limited. Much of the discussion focuses on insurance companies that tend to neglect patients, the benefits of tailored multidisciplinary approaches and treatment options for chronic pain. Dr. Gatchel and Dr. Schatman also address concerns about the future, including soaring health costs and what patients can do to keep options open. The discussion is centered around the importance of interaction between clinicians and academicians. Learn what patients with chronic pain of benign origin can do in order to improve their likelihood of receiving high quality care.

Also addressed are some of the ethical issues in chronic pain management such as the current status of the opioid conflict in chronic pain management. Dr. Schatman helps us understand the difference between dependence and addiction and touches on one particular issue deemed as controversial among patients and pain management experts. He explains the dangers of patients becoming “physiologically and emotionally dependent” on opioids and how seeking treatment to withdraw from opioid use is often a good choice. The discussion sheds light on the progress of new medications such as buprenorphine, also referred to as Suboxone, an opioid agonist.

This may all seem overwhelming, but organizations and foundations around the world are offering hope to patients. With organizations like the American Pain Foundation, and the American Academy of Pain Management, patients have wide access to resources. Hear Dr. Gatchel and Dr. Schatman answer listener questions, provide resources and share what they are doing to help patients have access to a variety of treatments. This interview is sure to encourage patients suffering with chronic pain to explore pain management approaches that will best fit their needs.

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Andrew Schorr:

Hello and thank you for joining us once again. I’m Andrew Schorr, and I’m delighted that you could be with us on Patient Power and Health Radio Network. I’ve been traveling. I was down at the American Society of Hematology meeting in Atlanta. There were more than 22,000 scientists from around the world and doctor and a few patients too. We will be bringing you more about that and what it means with people with blood related conditions. We will cover the blood cancers, and we’ll also talk about sickle cell anemia and hemophilia. That is all coming up in future programs; some even before the week is out, and I’ll tell you more about that.

Today, though, we are going to talk about something much more common than a blood cancer or hemophilia that affects people very seriously but not a lot of people. What affects a lot of people? Probably when you think of health conditions that affect a lot of people one term that surely has surely touched you is pain. For millions of people it’s chronic pain. Is it headache, is it backache? I’ve had shoulder pain. Is it stomach pain, is it foot pain? It can ruin your life. All the things that you’d like to do but you can’t; the happy thoughts that you’d like to have but you can’t because the pain can be debilitating .

There are pain centers around the country, and some will say, ‘Well, let’s give you a shot, let’s give you a pill, or let’s do surgery.' Those can be answers, but we are going to go up to what my wife likes to call the 10,000 foot level. That means we are going to take an overview of this and help give you during today’s program a way to think about how to attack the pain and a reality check on what we have available today and a way for you to be a smarter healthcare consumer so that you can get the best pain control for you, and for you really to remain the owner of the way that is done.

I want to tell you who are guests are. They are going to help us tackle the subject today. These are well known, highly respected people. They are both clinical psychologists and have a bunch of letters after their names. They help us with this overview of what to do about pain. The first is Dr. Robert Gatchel. Dr. Gatchel is Clinical Research Program Director of the Eugene McDermott Center for Pain Management at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, Texas. That is one of our leading medical centers in the country. He is also Professor and Chairman of the Department of Psychology and the College Of Science at the University of Texas at Arlington. Yes, the Texas Rangers play right near there, so I think in baseball terms.

I also have a neighbor of mine who collaborates sometimes with Dr. Gatchel, and that is Dr. Michael Schatman who is also a clinical psychologist. He is at Overlake Hospital Medical Center, which is very near me right outside Seattle. Gentlemen, welcome to Patient Power.

Dr. Gatchel:

Thank you.

Dr. Schatman:

It’s good being here.

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