Murray J. McAllister, PsyD
Murray J. McAllister, PsyD, is the executive director of the Institute for Chronic Pain (ICP). The ICP is an educational and public policy think tank. Its mission is to lead the field in making pain management more empirically supported. Additionally, the ICP provides Academic quality information on chronic pain that is approachable to patients and their families. Dr. McAllister is also the clinical director of pain services for Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute (CKRI), part of Allina Health, in Minneapolis, MN. Among other services, CKRI provides chronic pain rehabilitation services on a residential and outpatient basis.
One of the more common sentiments that chronic pain patients express is that that the profit-motive seems to have had too much of an influence on the recommendations that their healthcare providers have made over the years. After reflecting on all the years of chronic pain and all the years of failed treatments, many of which were tried again and again despite having failed to reduce pain at previous clinics, they conclude that the business side of healthcare has played too much of a role in their own care. They are now disappointed, angry, and distrustful of chronic pain management providers.
Patients with chronic pain, their healthcare providers, and society, more generally, are all typically concerned about addiction to opioid pain medications. This concern is well founded. Once commonly thought of as rare,1, 2 it is now generally accepted that the true rate of addiction to such medications is much higher than what was once thought.3, 4 The issue of addiction to prescription opioid pain medications generates considerable debate among the stakeholders in the field of chronic pain management. There are strong voices for the continued use of such medications despite the rate of addiction and strong voices against the continued use of these medications because of the rate of addiction.
Teaching People About Pain
Pain is a normal human experience. Without the ability to experience pain, people would not survive. Living in pain, however, is not normal.1 Pain that lasts beyond the normal healing time of tissues is called chronic or persistent pain. Worldwide, chronic pain is increasing. In the US alone, chronic pain has doubled in the last 15-20 years.2 With this increase, comes increased cost. Within Medicare, a US government-based insurance, epidural steroid (pain) injections have increased 629% in the last five years and the use of opioids (for example, hydrocodone and oxycodone) is up 423%.1 This increase is not isolated to the US and represents a global concern. In the shadow of this growing epidemic, we are faced with serious questions. Why is chronic pain increasing? Why are some of our most heroic treatments (opioids, injections, surgery, amputations, etc.) not working? The answer to these questions is complex and contains a variety of issues.
What is opioid-induced hyperalgesia?
Algesia means pain. Hyper means over or above or heightened. Opioid-induced means caused by opioid pain medication.
We all have normal levels of heightened sensitivity to various stimuli. For example, you may have a favorite smell. Perhaps, it is cigar smoke because it fondly reminds you of your grandfather. A slight whiff of cigar smoke makes you think of your grandfather and gives you pleasant feelings. This experience is in response to a simple smell, which to others, leads to no such connotations. Or, perhaps, you have a favorite song. You may find yourself on an elevator and upon hearing the elevator music, you recognize the song and it feels good. No one else in the elevator even notices the song until you say, "Oh, that’s my favorite song." To take yet another example, you might be able to readily pick out your spouse in a large crowd and subsequently come to feel a sense of warmth and joy at simply your spouse’s presence. To others, however, your spouse may simply be an invisible stranger among others in the crowd. These kinds of normal sensitivity can be present in any and all of the senses, including touch, sight, smell, taste, and hearing.
In chronic pain management, there are different types of pain clinics. Among others, there are two that seem almost diametrically opposed in their treatment of patients – even for patients with the same chronic pain conditions. One type of pain clinic is the chronic opioid management clinic. These types of clinics start chronic pain patients on opioids or take over the prescribing of the medications from other providers and subsequently maintain patients on chronic opioid management indefinitely. The other type of pain clinic is the interdisciplinary chronic pain rehabilitation program. They admit the same kinds of chronic pain patients and, instead of maintaining them on chronic opioid management, they taper opioids while teaching patients how to successfully self-manage pain.
What is insomnia?
Insomnia is a sleep problem that is marked by having difficulty falling asleep at the beginning of the night or returning to sleep upon awakening in the middle of the night.
Insomnia is common in persons with chronic pain. Upwards of half of all people with chronic low back pain, for instance, report insomnia.1, 2
In its current aims, the Institute for Chronic Pain promotes the theory and practice of chronic painrehabilitation. While far from the most profitable form of treatment, it is the most empirically supported. Moreover, a commitment to our guiding values ensures us to promote what, at the current time, is known to be the most efficacious treatment.
Our mission at the Insittute for Chronic Pain involves providing healthcare providers in the field of chronic pain management with the following:
Chronic low back pain affects about 10% of the population.1 Healthcare providers consider back pain as chronic when it lasts longer than six months and when they believe it will last indefinitely.
What is neck pain?
Neck pain is one of the most common types of pain disorders in the general population. At any given time, 34-43% of the population report having neck pain. 14-22% percent of the general population report having chronic neck pain.1, 2 Healthcare providers consider pain to be chronic when it lasts longer than six months.