You may have seen in the news this week (if you live in the UK and have Chronic Pain then you most probably would have) that new NICE guidelines have been introduced with regards to managing chronic pain.
GPs are now being advised not to prescribe pain medication to those of us with conditions that cause chronic pain because they could be ‘harmful’.
Instead, we are supposed to be put on antidepressants, start an exercise programme, cognitive behavioural therapy or acupuncture.
But what happens when you have a patient who is already on antidepressants, has already undergone CBT, exercises regularly and has tried acupuncture and physiotherapy?
What are doctors going to do to help these people?
The list of medications that doctors are now being told not to prescribe to people with chronic pain consists of the below:
- Anti-epileptic drugs (gabapentinoids)
- Any local anaesthetics
So, with every painkiller possible taken out of the equation, what are we supposed to do?
Personally, I have already gone through CBT, I have regular physiotherapy, I exercise as much as I possibly can but sometimes the pain is so bad that I physically cannot move, I am already on antidepressants for my mental health (they don’t touch the pain).
And yet despite all of this, I am now being told by a bunch of people who have never experienced chronic pain that I should train myself to live a normal life with pain.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not suggesting that pain medication is the be all and end all when it comes to managing chronic pain. There is definitely a place for CBT etc. within pain management but without some sort of pain relief alongside this, it simply doesn’t work. For people with conditions such as EDS, we spend all our energy trying to keep our bodies together and to fight through the pain. Ask someone like me to focus on CBT with nothing to distract me from the intense pain and you’re not going to be successful.
NICE say that painkillers can be ‘harmful’ but being in agony, knowing that there is nothing you can do or take to relieve the pain, causes far more harm than taking medication to reduce the pain does.
Is it any wonder that 10% of suicides are related to chronic pain? Take away all pain medication and that percentage will unfortunately sky rocket because no one can be expected to live a full and normal life with such insane levels of pain (85% of patients with chronic pain also suffer from severe depression).
It’s not just painkillers that cause harm either, all medication can cause harm such as addiction if taken for long enough or put into the wrong hands. So, why are pain meds being targeted?… Pain meds are the ones being targeted because unfortunately, a lot of doctors still believe that the pain is “all in our heads” and therefore we can train ourselves to miraculously not be in pain anymore (wish someone told me that 7 years ago…🙄🤦🏼♀️)
Yes, of course painkillers can be addictive but this is why any medication should be monitored. With conditions such as asthma, patients are made to have regular check-ups with trained nurses, where tests are done and their treatment is reviewed.
However, with invisible illnesses such as Ehlers Danlos, we are given a diagnosis and then made to deal with it on our own. After years of fighting, we get prescribed pain meds but we’re then never monitored.
If invisible illnesses like Ehlers Danlos, Fibromyalgia, CRPS etc. were managed as a whole by health professionals such as GPs, the risk of addiction could be reduced as medication could be continually monitored and adjusted as necessary. But instead we are left to fend for ourselves.
So, rather than telling doctors not to prescribe medication to those of us with chronic pain, why aren’t NICE implementing guidelines that force doctors to educate themselves on invisible illnesses? Why aren’t they working on reducing the medical gaslighting we experience constantly? Why aren’t they introducing mandatory medication reviews?
The answer is simple, the people who created these guidelines have never experienced chronic pain and therefore cannot see past the fact that medication can be addictive and so stopping them from being prescribed is seen as an easy fix.
Apparently, NICE have concluded that there is limited evidence to prove that pain medication improves the quality of life of those with chronic pain.
Let me tell you as someone who suffers from chronic pain every single day, pain medications very much do improve my quality of life. Every single day I wake up, smother myself in biofreeze, take all of my medication (including pain meds), use my tens machine and do my physio exercises. None of these take my pain away but the combination of all of them enables me to live a semi-normal life rather than being bed bound. If I forget to take my medication, I will be in agony even if I still remember to do my physio exercises and use my tens machine.
Personally, I hate taking tablets and I choke every single time I swallow one but I do it day in day out because without my medication, I would be stuck in bed in agony, unable to move, with severe depression.
So, to all doctors out there, on behalf of those of us with chronic pain, please don’t take away our pain medication. We deserve to enjoy our lives just as much as everyone else!