Modern medicine has done wonderful things for a lot of people. Modern medicine is also largely pharmacological in nature. As such, we have access to a plethora of medications, treatments, and medical devices. Curiously, modern medicine is often not very effective against chronic pain, even with all that.

Why Medication Shouldn't Always Be the First Response to Pain 1

The first response to pain frequently seems to be medication. We take pain medications and anti-inflammatory drugs to ease our suffering. Pain medication masks the pain, while anti-inflammatories reduce one of the symptoms that cause pain. But stop and think about it for just one minute. Neither type of medication actually addresses the underlying cause of the pain.

Problems with Pain Medications

Pharmacies around the world dispense pain medications at an alarming rate. Beyond so many prescriptions are over-the-counter (OTC) products used to treat everything from headaches to menstrual cramps. The problem is that none of these pain medications – prescription or otherwise – is completely harmless. All can lead to other problems if taken for long enough.

Take aspirin, for example. It is a prevalent OTC anti-inflammatory drug. Aspirin certainly relieves pain for a lot of people. But used over the long term, it can cause stomach ulcers, indigestion, and even kidney damage. Children should not be given aspirin because it can cause something known as Reye’s syndrome.

You are talking about more serious problems when you get into prescription pain medications. We have all been made aware of the opioid crisis over the last 5 to 10 years, so this should not be surprising to anyone. Many prescription pain medications carry with it the risk of addiction.

Doctors prescribe the following for chronic pain:

  • Codeine
  • Hydrocodone
  • Hydromorphone
  • Demerol
  • Morphine
  • Oxycodone.

Fentanyl is an especially potent opioid that is up to a hundred times more powerful than the others. The drug has been linked to many deaths, including that of the late musician Prince.

Only Masking the Pain

Even if pain medications did not have such negative side effects, they do not address the underlying issue. Medication masks the pain. Taking medication instead of fixing the root cause is like covering mold in your home by painting over it. Ignoring the mold only leads to more serious problems.

Doctors at Lone Star Pain Medicine, a Texas pain institute that treats various conditions, explain that pain is a sensory experience almost always associated with some physical problem. In many cases, it is related to actual tissue damage. Pain is a warning sign that something is wrong. Does it make sense to mask it and ignore the underlying cause? Of course not.

As for inflammation, it is actually a protective response initiated by the body to deal with pathogens, cell damage, and the like. Inflammation rushes blood cells, stem cells, and other necessary components to the site of injury or illness to facilitate healing. By constantly treating pain by reducing inflammation, we are actually making it more difficult for the body to heal itself.

Everything in Moderation

The pharmacological approach to medicine is not bad in and of itself. Likewise, treating pain with a combination of pain medications and anti-inflammatories is not always bad. The key is moderation. We know of pain medications and anti-inflammatory drugs, suggesting that medication is not always the best way to approach pain.

There are those times when it is better to treat pain by treating the underlying cause. In some of those cases, treating the underlying cause means less reliance on pain medications and anti-inflammatories.


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