5 Reasons to Max Out on Twitter for PainWeek

By Margaret Aranda, MD, Columnist

More than ever, you need to be on Twitter this week if you love to advocate for pain patients. That’s because PainWeek begins Tuesday, September 5th and runs through Saturday, September 9th at the Cosmopolitan Hotel in Las Vegas.

You won’t find many patients at PainWeek, but there are plenty of doctors. PainWeek is the nation’s largest annual conference for healthcare providers who practice pain management. Over 2,300 physicians, nurses, pharmacists, dentists, psychologists, and social workers will attend seminars on topics ranging from analgesics of the future to opioid constipation to a debate on whether urine drug testing is necessary.

Why should you care about PainWeek and why should you be maxed out on Twitter?

Tweets to #PainWeek are going to get a lot of eyeballs, not only from PainWeek organizers, but doctors, pharmaceutical companies and the news media. It's a good opportunity to show them what pain sufferers are feeling and thinking.

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Tweeting is also a great way for patients to spread information and awareness about chronic pain to new pairs of eyes. When you do that, it’s called an "impression.” When someone comments or replies to your Tweet, that's an "engagement.” And when you get a “Retweet” – also known as an #RT -- that's the biggest compliment a Twitterer can give to a fellow Twitterer.

Here are 5 ways pain patients can use Twitter:

1) Advocate: The more people see your Tweets, the more you empower people to step out and be bold for themselves and for others that are suffering in pain. Use uplifting images, music, or quotes interspersed with your Tweets to help get positive attention.

2) Prevent Suicides: The ultimate goal of an advocate is to prevent the most severe outcomes of unrelenting, persistent pain. Those would be patient suicide, spousal suicide, and physician homicide. If we can spread the word about these emerging problems, we can help others hang onto their lives until the nation finally recognizes what is happening in the pain community. 

3) Use Hashtags: Worldwide patient advocacy can reign on Twitter. Try to use 6 to 8 hashtags per Tweet. In addition to #PainWeek, here are some great hashtags to use for the widest outreach:

#bedridden #broken #ButYouDontLookSick #chronic #chronicillness #chronicpain #ChronicPain #disabled #Disability #edRecovery #epatient #ehealth #HomicideDue2Pain #IAmNotANumber  #invisibledisability #invisibleillness #livelife #MedEd #MedX #NoCure #opioids #opioidcrisis #pain #PainManagement #patients #PatientEngagement #PatientExperience #PatientsFirst #PatientsIncluded #PatientsLikeMe #patientsafety #PatientsUnitedForDEAReform #ptsafety #spoonie #Spoonies #SpoonieProblems #SpoonieSpeak #StoriesNotStigma #suicide #SuicideDue2Pain #SupportVeterans #Vets #Veterans

4) Grow: What if every one of us had 10,000 followers each? It's one thing to have something to say, and another thing to show it to as many pairs of eyes as possible. Twitter is very reciprocal, so follow everyone who follows you.

For the same reason, if someone Retweets you, try to Retweet back or at least “like” a few of their Tweets. That's Twitter's culture. It’s reciprocal. 

5) Inspire and be inspired. We learn and grow every day. Sometimes we teach and sometimes we learn from our students. If you love to write or advocate for patients, consider starting a free blog where millions of authors go: Wordpress.com. This way, when you Tweet, it could be one of your own articles, and you can drive traffic to your own website by Tweeting your blog’s address.

#PainWeek is poised to be the most Tweeted pain meeting of the year, so join in on the fun!

"Be empowered to empower." 

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Dr. Margaret Aranda is a Stanford and Keck USC alumni in anesthesiology and critical care. She has dysautonomia and postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS) after a tragic car accident left her with traumatic brain injuries that changed her path in life to patient advocacy.

Margaret is a board member of the Invisible Disabilities Association. She has authored six books; the most recent is The Rebel Patient: Fight for Your Diagnosis. You can follow Margaret’s expert social media advice on Twitter, Google +, Blogspot, Wordpress. and LinkedIn.

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.

Montana Clinic to Reopen Without Doctor

By Pat Anson, Editor

A Montana health clinic that closed its doors last week will reopen on Monday, but without its owner -- who says he will not write opioid prescriptions for chronic pain patients because he is "paralyzed with fear" of being arrested.

"I don't think it's safe for me to continue seeing these patients until I get some reassurance that I can do it. I'm risking my well being by going in there.," said Mark Ibsen, MD, owner of the Urgent Care Plus clinic in Helena.

Ibsen says he left behind "tapering" prescriptions for opioids at lower doses to help wean patients off the drugs and prevent them from going into withdrawal.

"I have a couple who are upset and feel abandoned. And I have a lot of them who are upset and understanding," he said. "They've seen what I am going through. They've been watching me kind of deteriorate emotionally over the last few months. And I tell my patients I can't continue to do this, you've got to find someone else. This is dangerous for me."

image courtesy of mark ibsen

image courtesy of mark ibsen

Ibsen fears being arrested like Dr. Chris Christensen, another Montana doctor who was recently charged with 400 felonies, including two counts of negligent homicide, in connection with the overprescribing of opioids. Ibsen himself was the target of a lengthy investigation by the Montana Board of Medical Examiners after he started treating some of Dr. Christensen’s former pain patients.

If he keeps writing prescriptions for opioids, Ibsen worries he'll be next.

"The DEA agents that met with me five different times will not meet with me again unless my lawyer is present. My only inference from that is that they have an open investigation. I haven't been able to confirm that , but you don't know that until they walk through the door and cuff you.  I have no idea, so I am paralyzed with fear," he said.

dr. mark ibsen

dr. mark ibsen

Pain News Network caught up with Ibsen in Las Vegas, where he is attending PAINWeek, the nation's largest conference for frontline practitioners in pain management. Ibsen hoped going to the conference would re-energize him, but found that many of the lectures focused on opioid abuse and diversion.--. the very subjects he's grown weary of.

"All I've seen is more evidence of hysteria," he said. "Prescription drug overdose is number 22 on the list of causes of death in America. And this so-called epidemic, I mean calling it an epidemic is insane."

Like Ibsen, other doctors around the country have also stopped writing prescriptions for opioids.

"Many of them with much less provocation than he's had," said Bob Twillman, PhD, Executive Director of the American Academy of Pain Management. "You worry you're going to lose your practice and lose your livelihood by doing something you don't intend to do. And the easiest way to do that is don't go there, don't prescribe."

Ibsen says he was prescribing opioids to about200 patients when he stopped. Some have gone to hospital emergency rooms seeking more medication, while others are in search of new doctors in a state where very few are willing to prescribe to new patients.

"My patients are now being shunned by other doctors and judged by the fact that they've seen me," Ibsen said.