By Forest Tennant, MD, DrPH
The current attempts by a number of parties to castigate and humiliate pain patients and their medical practitioners is not just pathetic and mostly false, it is dangerous to the fate and life of many intractable pain (IP) patients. If it wasn’t so serious, some of the claims, biases and beliefs would make good comedy.
First and foremost there has been no discussion about the difference between intractable pain and chronic pain. There really is no bigger issue.
The proper identification and treatment of the IP patient is not only essential for the health and well-being of the IP patient, it is a major key to the prevention of overdoses and diversion of abusable drugs. IP patients must have special care and monitoring.
The basic definition of IP is a “moderate to severe, constant pain that has no known cure and requires daily medical treatment.”
Chronic pain, on the other hand is a “mild to moderate, intermittent, recurring pain that does not require daily medical treatment.” While there are millions of persons with chronic pain, only about 10% are intractable.
The cause of “intractability” is two-fold:
- The initial injury or disease which initiated IP was severe enough to cause a pathologic transformation of the microglial cells in the spinal cord and/or brain. It is this transformation that produces neuroinflammation and the constancy of the pain. This process is known as “centralization” or “central sensitivity.”
- To have enough injury to cause “centralization” one must have a most serious disease or condition of which the most common are: adhesive arachnoiditis, traumatic brain injury, reflex sympathetic dystrophy, post-viral encephalopathy, or a genetic disease such as Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, porphyria, or sickle cell disease.
Medical practitioners must have minimally-restricted prescribing authority and autonomy to adequately treat IP. For example, the proper treatment of IP not only requires analgesics, opioids and non-opioid, but specific anti-inflammatory, hormonal, and corticosteroid agents that will cross the blood brain barrier and control inflamed and pathologic microglial cells. Treatment of IP has to be individually tailored and may require non-standard, off-label, or an unusual treatment regimen.
Make no mistake about it. The new treatment approach to IP is quite effective in reducing pain, controlling neuroinflammation, and allowing patients to biologically function well enough to have a good quality of life. Also be advised that the new IP approach is not just reducing pain but treating the underlying cause of pain. Consequently, a lot of expensive procedures, therapies, and opioids are no longer needed.
As long as I am practicing I will continue to push forward this new approach.
Dr. Tennant specializes in the research and treatment of intractable pain at the Veract Intractable Pain Clinic in West Covina, California, which remains in operation after recently being raided by DEA agents. Many of Dr. Tennant's patients travel from out-of-state because they are unable to find effective treatment elsewhere.
The information in this column should not be considered as professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It is for informational purposes only and represents the author’s opinions alone. It does not inherently express or reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of Pain News Network.