As the opioid crisis continues to rage across America, pain treatment providers are playing an even larger role in offering effective non-narcotic pain relief to patients.

“There are many effective non-opioid pain treatments,” says Dr. Michael Grille of the Hartford Hospital Pain Treatment Center.  “These are non-addictive treatments, and can actually treat pain better.”

Grille says the issue of over prescribing opioids has been lingering for some time, long before the crisis took hold.

“There’s a subset of pain treatment providers who have felt that these medications are not the best long-term option for patients,” he says. “I think the crisis has made this apparent to the entire medical community.”

In many cases, such as post-operative patients, opioids are appropriate for short-term pain treatment, but the long-term use of opioids has actually proven to be less effective in some patients. Dr. Grille says overuse of opioids can lead to such detrimental effects as opioid-induced hyperalgesia, in which a patient becomes more sensitive to pain.

“On functional scales and on pain scales, there isn’t much of a difference between patients who are treated with chronic opioid medications and those who aren’t” says Grille.  “So, if pain relief is the same with or without opioids, isn’t it better to avoid the possible side effects and dangers?  Our Pain Treatment Center is a hub where we can connect patients to physical therapy, psychological therapy, interventional therapies, integrative medicine, and many different options for pain treatment.”

Side effects from opioid use include nausea, vomiting, constipation, respiratory depression, sexual dysfunction and physical dependence.

Rushford Medical Director Dr. J. Craig Allen says he’s pleased the pain treatment community is working to educate patients about other treatment options.

“At Hartford HealthCare we want to ensure that our patients have the safest, most effective pain treatment while reducing risk of misuse, abuse, addiction and overdose from opioid pain medication,” Allen says.  “The best way to accomplish this is by educating patients and their families so that the choice of pain treatment can be a shared decision making process. Patients need to know the potential risks, benefits and potential efficacy of all available treatment options.”

Allen says, while pain management providers are well-trained in offering alternative pain strategies, there needs to be more of an emphasis on pain management and addiction in medical schools and graduate medical training for all specialties.

“Patient and provider should  be aware that the longer one is on opioid medications the greater the chance of developing addiction and that after just 10 days of medication the risk of still taking them a year later is 20 percent. If a patient requires more than a week of opioid analgesic medication, the patient and prescriber should review the current treatment strategy,” Allen says.

For more information on the program and services at the Hartford Hospital Pain Treatment Center, click here.