The world of health has been turned upside down over the past few decades. Doctors had been derided for not prescribing enough pain relief medicine back in the 1980s. Pain control had become so important that the world of health even saw fit to add a fifth indicator of health. 

The four Main Health Indicators have long been

(1) Heart Rate,

(2) Blood Pressure,

(3) Respiratory Rate, and 

(4) Body Temperature.

All of which are specific, measurable, accurate, regular, and time-bound

Number 5, Pain Levels, was added and efforts were made to measure and track pain using a variety of devices/charts that supposedly helped patients and health professionals identify the levels of perceived pain and evaluate the effectiveness of pain relief treatments. 

The pain measuring tools rely on subjective techniques based on a model of “one to ten”, with ten being the worst pain. The patient is asked to rate their level of pain. Is asking a person to rate their level of pain in a manner consistent with the idea of a good indicator mentioned above? Can the report of pain be validated with any degree of accuracy? While the top 4 indicators are specifically reproducible, a subjective evaluation of pain can be modified by several factors that impact perceptions and, subsequently, the reported level of pain. Sad news can easily cause a person to evaluate their pain more poorly. Subjective evaluations are practically useless.

Failure to treat reported pain was “ineffective medicine” and health practitioners were encouraged to do everything possible to reduce all pain to acceptable (?) levels. Alternative approaches to pain control were mostly jettisoned in favor of “real medical treatment” with drugs – often in the opioid family. Opioid sellers reassure the health community that addiction rates were very low and that patients could easily be weaned off their opioid drugs when they were no longer necessary.

Today, the “opioid epidemic” has pushed health practitioners to turn away from prescription drugs and support other treatments, including surgery – and even ignoring the pain. Why? Instead of being called to task for not prescribing enough, today’s doctors are called to the same carpet for prescribing too much. Instead of prescriptions, the health system has turned to over-the-counter drugs that don’t require prescriptions, with the associated tracking of prescribers, dispensers, and users. 

Sufferers are frequently directed to Non Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs), the most popular of which are ibuprofen and naproxen. Acetaminophen and aspirin are also on the list of suggested OTC pain relievers, neither of which are safe for long term use. 

Several prescription NSAIDs were removed for their toxicity and the OTC products rose in popularity – mostly because they work and nobody tracks the amounts ordered or used. Some research has pointed out that the NSAID relief was equal or superior to the opioids in relieving pain. Vast numbers of people believe that OTC drugs are far safer than prescription ones. That’s a fabrication. OTC NSAIDs are toxic, affecting the liver, kidneys, and heart – not to mention all of the gastric side effects. Pharmacists have routinely warned people to take their prescribed NSAID with a snack or a meal to reduce stomach problems. NOTE: the belief has been that NSAIDs are physically irritating to the gut lining and that the presence of food with the drug helped reduce the problem. Sadly, that isn’t exactly true. The gastric harm from those drugs is often associated with the levels in the blood – after it is absorbed – not the physical presence of the drug in the gut. 

NSAIDs impair ligaments from repairing themselves after an injury, yet they are frequently given after things like an ankle sprain, a chronic weakness forms in the area which some evidence suggests predisposes a person to less healing and further injuries.

It’s a wonder that with all of the advancements in technology, new, safe and effective forms of pain relief are not available. The market is huge as practically everyone experiences pain almost daily. Yet, we still turn to surgeries and highly toxic drugs for relief. Is it possible that finding a better alternative is less of a priority than the status quo?