VA San Diego Healthcare System
New Ways to Treat Pain
Opioids are a type of pain medication that healthcare providers used to think were safe in reducing chronic pain. Common opioids include morphine, oxycodone, hydrocodone, methadone, hydromorphone, and fentanyl. We now know that long-term opioid use may not be helpful or safe in treating pain. Long-term opioid use can lead to multiple problems including loss of pain-relieving effects, increased pain, unintentional death, dependence, opioid use disorder, breathing problems, mood changes, loss of testosterone, constipation and worsening of your immune system.
There have been significant changes in how we now approach treating pain. Your provider now will focus on treating pain by using multiple treatment options including non-medication, and non-opioid treatments to help you manage your pain better. Pain can impact all areas of your life including limiting you from doing your daily activities. Pain can cause your life to become stressful and may worsen your other medical problems. The first step in treating pain is through self-management. Self-management includes practicing mindfulness, eating healthy foods, stopping smoking, moving your body every day, losing weight and practicing deep breathing and relaxation.
The VA San Diego Healthcare System (VASDHS) offers multiple non-medication treatments to help you with self- management and retraining your brain to reduce pain. There are multiple mindfulness and meditation group sessions that you can attend to learn mindfulness and deep breathing techniques. Cognitive behavioral therapy has been shown to be very effective in reducing pain. Your provider can enter a consult to get you into a program. Our dietary staff can show you how to eat an anti-inflammatory diet that might help reduce pain and put you on track for healthy living. We also have programs to help you quit smoking and lose weight. Physical therapy, hydrotherapy, acupuncture, yoga, chiropractic therapy, tai chi, and recreation therapy are all available in reducing pain and are offered through the VA San Diego either on-site or through our community providers. The VA San Diego recently opened the Spiritual Center for Wellness which will provide many classes. Treating your mind, body, and spirit will help you reduce pain. That is why the VA has adopted a Whole Health way of treating patients.
Non-opioid medication is also available to manage your pain. Anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen, naproxen, and meloxicam treat muscle and bone pain. Anti-depressant medications are also shown to be effective in treating muscle, bone and nerve pain. These medications include amitriptyline, nortriptyline, duloxetine, and venlafaxine. Anticonvulsant medicines such as gabapentin and pregabalin can also treat nerve pain. There are many non-opioid medication options including oral or topical formulations available at the VASDHS that can be used to help in managing your pain.
Pain is a complex problem which we now know may require multiple treatment options to help you lessen the impact of your pain and improve your quality of life. VASDHS is dedicated to providing you with options that are proven to work.