In light of the pandemic that we currently face, it also presents us with an all-time high global health crisis. The adjustments that COVID-19 has caused us to make doubles the distress for those suffering from diseases or chronic pain. That’s why, in this trying time, it’s crucial to address your symptoms while not amplifying fear and anxiety appropriately.
The government has imposed quarantine as a measure to avoid the spread of the coronavirus. Because of this, people with chronic pain have lost access to many support programs and medicine access. Many patients are left alone to cope on their own.
As such, for patients and their loved ones, it’s vital to know the support and services available to help them. How can patients rationally manage chronic pain amid the quarantine period caused by the coronavirus?
The Main Challenge
Because chronic pain is an often-difficult condition to treat, patients are often vulnerable to developing depression and anxiety. At this time, chronic pain patients face more significant challenges other than the burden of their pain. As we undergo social distancing, there is a higher risk of mental health challenges.
“Chronic pain and mental health disorders are common in the general population, and epidemiological studies suggest that a bidirectional relationship exists between these 2 conditions,” W. Michael Hooten, M.D., of the Division of Pain Medicine, Department of Anesthesiology at Mayo Clinic College of Medicine notes.
But one of the primary concerns is the abrupt reduction of opioid medication availability. It becomes an even more significant problem if there is a total absence of medication—which can then lead to withdrawal syndrome. Drugs are useful in chronic pain treatment, but they may also produce side effects, which a professional should monitor.
This sudden and rapid withdrawal can lead to haze in decision-making. Patients may end up making risky decisions with long-term consequences.
Some states have revised prescribing regulations for certain medications to prevent shortages and to make it easier for patients to obtain it. Physicians are voicing out their concern for potential shortfalls due to adjustments in production and importation. Hence, a lot of doctors are providing alternative strategies and communication channels to provide support for patients.
Though pharmacy generally has enough stock at this time, the fear and anxiety can lead to another concern—hoarding. Potentially, the higher demand for medications can affect the already limited supply. Hoarding medical supplies can have downstream effects individually and to the public health system.
Supports And Services For Chronic Pain Patients During COVID-19
Especially at this time, pain management is vital to prevent and lessen avoidable emergency room visits. If many patients go to the ER, it will defeat the purpose of the imposed quarantine—which is to minimize face-to-face interactions.
The American Society of Regional Anesthesia and Pain Medicine has published guidelines on treatments that can go along amid the pandemic.
Regulatory systems have allowed for extended durations of prescription. Here are some alternative treatments to chronic pain amid the global pandemic:
- Dose Tapering
For patients undergoing opioid treatment, discuss with your doctor about the possibility of a dose tapering regimen to safely reduce their requirements. If it’s not possible, you can also ask how you can obtain medication. Your doctor can also come up with an alternative treatment or non-medication-based treatment to manage their pain.
The use of telehealthcare broadens access to services without needing to go to a healthcare facility. Doctors can evaluate chronic pain patients without a direct visit to their clinic. These services include:
– Live audio or video consultations
– Virtual check-ins
– Non-face-to-face communication via patient portals
- Online Exercising Tools
The pandemic may have lessened the regular therapy visits to manage chronic pain, but there are a lot of online tool options. Through these tools, patients can continue to perform exercises at home.
- Online Support Groups
More than ever, patients need access to medical and psychological consultations. Online support groups can also help chronic pain patients remain connected at a time when they feel more isolated. It’s also important to reach out to families and friends to alert them to the caring measure you’re taking. It can also help them prepare in case anything happens to the patient.
During this time, it’s crucial to understand the connection between anxiety, fear, and physical pain. Chronic pain patients need to know how to access help if they need it during this COVID-19 period. Having effective remote pain management under quarantine can restore the sense of calm and control in your system. Just follow the expert-guided exercises to break the pain-fear cycle. Lastly, it’s essential to have support from a positive-minded community who can help you get through this pandemic.