It’s pretty safe to say that no one is a big fan of pain. Nevertheless, it is one of the body’s most important communication tools. It tells us when something is wrong, has multiple causes, and people respond to it in multiple ways. Although experiences of pain vary from person to person, it is possible to categorize the different types of pain. Acute pain is associated with damage to tissue such as bone, muscle or organs and usually has a limited time period. Chronic pain lasts longer, is usually resistant to medical treatment, and is very often attributable to nerve damage. Chronic pain can be a disease in itself and affects more Americans than Diabetes, Heart Disease, and Cancer combined. In the workplace it can costs thousands of dollars, missed productivity, and cause workers to slip into a state of permanent disability.
How to keep clients from becoming narcotic and analgesic dependent, effective workers and off disability is a daunting task. Most workers with chronic pain started out with an injury that was not catastrophic, but the worker slipped into a state of deconditioning that lead to medication dependency along with depression and anxiety. Often recovery looks like a marathon so expectations must be set in incremental stages. Pain management physicians need to know their patients and become familiar with how the pain has affected lifestyle including sleep, work productivity, personal relationships, exercise, and moods. The best treatment is to set expectations to shrink the negative impact and improve the quality of the worker’s life. The individual worker must be willing to accept the treatment options to gain control of their pain. Both pain and mental health specialists have a very powerful interface in the treatment of chronic pain. Many with chronic pain report improvement with antidepressant and anti-anxiety medications that not only act on depression but actually help reduce pain and control the amplification of pain. Workers and employers must put aside predisposed prejudice to behavioral specialists in order for workers to be able to choose a healthier lifestyle.
Case Managers can play an important role in recovery by rapidly incorporating professionals into the case management and help patients include chronic behavior therapies into their plan of care. Medical care coordination with the provider can help reduce narcotic utilization in those workers motivated to return to a healthy life. Incorporating a clinical psychologist may help overcome the hurdles facing those conditions identified as potentially chronic pain cases.