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Have you noticed that people taking medications for chronic pain often never improve?

One of the worst aspects of narcotic pain drugs (opioids) is the effect on patients’ sensitivity to pain.  Studies have repeatedly shown that after 3-4 weeks of use, the drugs often result in the patient becoming more sensitive to pain.

Did you catch that? The drugs that are being used to treat pain actually cause the patient to feel more pain.

The problem is well known among clinicians. It even has a clinical name. It is called Opioid Induced Hyperalgesia or abbreviated OIH.

That means that the drugs affect your brain and nervous system in a way to make you more likely to feel pain than if you had not been taking the drug.

This is part of the reason patients find that they need higher or more frequent doses of the opioid drugs over time. It is also the reason many patients simply never get better and their condition becomes chronic.

Currently, there is no well-established medical treatment for opioid induced hyperalgesia once it develops. That means the pharmaceutical industry has not yet found a drug to sell to patients that will undo the damage done by the other drugs they sold to patients.

There is hope. We have been working with patients that are experiencing chronic pain and have a history of relying on opioid pain drugs for a number of years. We have found very good success in helping patients find welcome relief from their pain at the same time they are reducing their dependence on opioid drugs.

In many cases we have been successful in helping patients eliminate their prescription opioid pain drugs altogether and live without the pain.

We utilize a number of treatments and resources to help patients get off the opioid drugs. One of the mainstays is our medical acupuncture. Our medical acupuncture has been so helpful that local medical physicians routinely refer patients to our office for this treatment to help their patients find relief for chronic pain without opioid drugs. Several times each week we will meet with a patient referred by their medical doctors especially for this reason.

Our medical acupuncture works within the nervous system of the body to restore normal pain mechanisms. It provides relief for the chronic pain and reduces the dependency on opioid drugs. This works to seemingly reverse the opioid induced hyperalgesia.

For patients this is a win-win. They have relief from pain and reduced dependency on dangerous opioid drugs.

For providers this is also a win, since they are able to lessen the demand for opioid drugs. Providers are facing difficult situations when caring for patients with chronic pain. The patient is expecting the provider to offer a prescription that will reduce the pain, yet the provider is under increasing pressure to reduce the number of prescriptions for opioid medications.

Tennessee has consistently ranked among the worst states in terms of the number of opioid prescriptions. In 2016 Tennessee was ranked second highest in number of opioid prescriptions. That year there were 1,631 deaths due to overdose of prescription opioid drugs. That’s more people dying from prescription opioid overdoses than in car crashes (1,009) and gun related deaths (434) combined.

Our medical acupuncture works in a number of ways to reduce pain. It directly stimulates the nervous system as well as working through the body’s sophisticated electrical system. Our medical acupuncture affects the portion of the brain that interprets pain. That is believed to be a clue to how it can help reduce the opioid induced hyperalgesia.

In a way, it appears to be effective in resetting the brain’s pain pathways and normalizing the sensitivity to pain.

We also use advanced forms of electronic nerve stimulation, including a device made by NeuroMed Inc. that can create drug-free electroanalgesia. That means the device can effectively create a form of nerve block that can often eliminate pain within minutes. A series of these treatments can often reduce longstanding joint pain that has been present for years. Even in cases that have been diagnosed as degenerative or arthritis the device can be effective in reducing pain significantly.

The device, called the Matrix, uses very high frequency electronic signals to reduce pain. This is somewhat similar to a TENS unit but can be much more effective. Over time during a series of sessions, the benefit is more cumulative and can provide lasting relief

These treatments have proven to be safe and effective in reducing pain, increasing patients’ abilities to do the things they enjoy and reversing the effects of opioid induced hyperalgesia.

Dr. Mark Kestner is a licensed chiropractic physician in Murfreesboro. His office is at 1435 NW Broad St. Contact him at mkestner@DrKestner.com

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