by Jennifer M. Smith, Esq.

The age old problem of treating persons with chronic pain was discussed in a recent WSJ article dated July 5, 2011, titled, Diagnosing a Patient as a Faker. The article notes, despite advances in medicine, that there really are few objective tools to measure pain. As a result, opioids have become the most commonly prescribed drugs in the U.S. Unfortunately, as the popularity of opioids has increased, the abuse of opioid pain relievers has become the second-leading cause of accidental death in the U.S., second only to car accidents.

The article suggests that pain management providers can improve treatment and diagnosis by insisting the patient be re-examined before prescribing more pain medication, requiring periodic urine tests of patients, and requiring the patient to sign a treatment contract. Providers can also effectuate successful treatment by spending more time with the patient and using a multidisciplinary approach to treat chronic pain, which may include anesthesiologists, neurologists, physical therapists and psychologists. Weighing the costs associated with pain management of workers’ compensation patients with chronic pain, and the lack of objective medical tests to measure and treat the pain is a common problem faced by employers and insurers. Independent Medical Evaluations, surveillance and aggressive case management can be cost effective tools used to manage this problem.