September 09, 2021 | Tags: Wellness

Most of us experience some form of physical pain in our lifetime. In fact, pain is the number one reason why people seek care from a doctor. Common causes of pain include an injury or surgery, but the pain is temporary and usually goes away as the body heals. This is known as acute pain.

Chronic pain is defined as pain that lasts 3 months or more and may be caused by a disease or condition, injury, medical treatment, inflammation, or even an unknown reason. It can often be stressful to manage chronic pain and may lead to questions about pain medications, opioids and other treatments.

Pain and prescription opioids

Opioids are a class of pain-relieving drugs that can stop the body from processing pain by blocking pain signals sent from the brain to the body. They are effective for treating multiple types of pain and are safe when used for a short time, generally 3 days or less, and taken as prescribed by a healthcare provider. Opioids should only be used when absolutely necessary because even limited use can lead to dependence or addiction and cause a number of serious side effects and risks.

Benefits and risks

If you are experiencing pain, work closely with your healthcare provider to set pain management goals and develop a treatment plan to achieve those goals. You should discuss the benefits and risks of opioids to help you decide what’s best for you. If you are prescribed an opioid, it’s best to follow your provider’s recommendations for dosing. Follow up if your pain is not subsiding as quickly as expected. You can view this video to learn more about taking prescription opioids.

Beyond possible side effects, taking opioids can lead to dependency and addiction. Dependency means feeling withdrawal symptoms when not taking the drug, while addiction is a chronic brain disease that causes a person to seek out drugs. You can take this online quiz to measure your risk of dependency or addiction based on your health and family history.

Alternative medications and treatments

There are alternative options that can help relieve or manage pain that you should discuss with your healthcare provider. They can include acupuncture, chiropractic manipulation, massage, cognitive- behavioral therapy, meditation, yoga and physical therapy. Non-opioid drugs could also be considered, such as NSAIDs, gabapentin and analgesics. Be sure to check your health plan documents to see if any of these alternatives are covered.

Unused medication disposal

If you have any unused opioid prescriptions in your home, or any other medications, it’s best to dispose of them safely so that no one else takes them deliberately or accidentally. You may be able to find a disposal location in your area by visiting the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration Diversion Control Division website. Some pharmacies offer on-site medicine drop-off boxes, mail-in programs and kits, and other ways to help you safely dispose of your unused medicines. If you are unsure of how to dispose of unused medications, check with your pharmacist.

See your doctor

You shouldn’t have to manage pain on your own. Schedule an appointment with your primary care provider (PCP) to discuss your options. If you don’t have a PCP, you can use the Find a Provider tool after logging in to My Health Plan. Many providers offer telehealth visits to their patients as an alternative to a face-to-face visit. Call Customer Care at the number listed on your ID card to see if your plan covers telehealth visits.