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Why Your Doc Might Advise Pain Management Over Corticosteroids

While many of our patients come to us on their own, there are those who make appointments with our clinics based on a recommendation from their primary care physicians. Their doctors advise pain management over relying solely on pharmacological treatments. Why would a doctor do that?

Prescription medications are often the frontline treatment for chronic pain. Among the many choices are corticosteroids, a class of prescription medications well known for their anti-inflammatory properties. Corticosteroids are commonly prescribed for rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, and other conditions.

If you have been on corticosteroids for a while and have been urged by your GP to see a pain management physician instead, heed that advice. There are particularly good reasons for being cautious about long-term corticosteroid use.

Every Pain Management Medication Has Side Effects

Corticosteroids are generally safe when prescribed according to standards and guidelines. But like any other prescription medication, corticosteroids do have their side effects. Over time, those side effects can lead to other health conditions – some of which can be serious.

Conversely, pain management physicians are trained to utilize a variety of treatments over and above prescription medications. This is not to say that a pain management doctor will not write a prescription. It is to say that the doctor will be fully versed in other treatments as well. This is beneficial for patients in that they have more options.

Just as an example, one of the options we look at here at KindlyMD is the Utah Medical Card. It is a state-issued card that gives patients access to certain plant-based medicines. The medicines aren't appropriate for every condition under the sun. However, they are appropriate for pain management.

Long-Term Corticosteroid Concerns

Getting back to the original topic, there are consequences associated with corticosteroids. Using corticosteroids for a short time isn't likely to have a long-lasting impact on the body. But long-term use is another issue. In the long term, corticosteroids can contribute to:

It is important to note that not every patient who uses corticosteroids long-term will be impacted by the potential side effects. In fact, most patients will not. But if your doctor recommends dialing back the corticosteroids in favor of a pain management strategy, they may believe you are at greater risk for complications.

A More Holistic Approach

As a general rule, pain management tends to take a more holistic approach to dealing with chronic pain. That is certainly our philosophy at KindlyMD. Our goal isn't to simply to cover up the pain and make it more bearable. It is to help patients feel better by managing their pain, and its root causes, through a variety of treatments and strategies.

Everything from the Utah Medical Card to physical therapy and mental health assistance is on the table here. We believe in the holistic approach. We believe that a person's physical, mental, and emotional health are all intrinsically connected.

If your doctor recommends you see a pain management specialist so that you can dial back the corticosteroids, heed that advice. There are very good reasons for such a recommendation. And if you live here in Utah, we hope you will consider visiting the pain management specialists here at KindlyMD.

Medication Management in the U.S. Could Use Some Adjusting

Among the services we offer here at KindlyMD is medication management. As a culture that depends so heavily on prescription medications, we rely on our medical providers to guide us along the medication pathway safely and effectively. That does not always happen. For that very reason, we passionately believe that medication management in the U.S. could use some adjusting.

Our philosophy is that medication is just one of many tools medical providers can bring to bear as they seek to help patients feel better. It is not the only tool. It's also not the best tool in every situation. Unfortunately, the reliance on prescription medications has become so pervasive in the American healthcare system that too many patients are subject to overprescribing.

Too Many Drugs, Too Frequently

Overprescribing occurs when patients end up taking too many drugs, too frequently. We see it all the time in pain medicine. Narcotic pain meds are the go-to pain management tool that many doctors turn to without a second thought. Patients receive one prescription after the next and, before they know it, they have been taking their meds for a lot longer than established guidelines would otherwise recommend.

We have seen similar situations with prescription sleeping pills, antidepressants, and other drugs. Continually writing prescriptions without ever addressing the root cause of the problem is not smart medicine. It is an approach that seems like something more fitting of the dark ages.

Our goal with medication management is to bring it out of the dark ages and into the 21st century. Our clinicians reach beyond normally prescribed medications to look at other treatments that are equally or more effective. As part of our approach to medication management, we try to introduce qualified patients to plant-based therapies.

A Science Informed Strategy

One downside of the traditional approach to medication management is that it only considers FDA-approved medications. There is nothing wrong with such medications per se. In order to gain FDA approval, a pharmaceutical company must prove both efficacy and safety. So there is science behind their products.

On the other hand, plant-based medicines do not have FDA approval for the most part. That is not because the medicines are unsafe or don't work. It is because they do not require approval by law. Yet this does not equate to quackery. Plant-based medicines are science-informed, which is to say that they are backed by scientific principles long accepted in Western medicine.

For example, we already know how certain types of natural substances interact with the human body based on how their molecules bind with brain receptors. So even though a plant-based medicine hasn't been approved by the FDA after rigorous safety and efficacy testing, science does inform us as to how that medicine will affect a patient. The science informs us how the medicine might be used to treat a patient.

The System Is Not Working

The strongest case for changing America's approach to medication management is the fact that our current system is not working. We have far too many patients chasing medications that are not helping them. Meanwhile, we have medical providers beholden to a system that gives them very little room to be flexible. The ones who suffer from this arrangement are patients themselves.

We believe medication management needs to account for plant-based alternatives. In fact, it needs to account for a full range of alternatives to Western medical standards. Medication management is vital to patient health. But if it is intentionally limited by the old ways of doing things, patients cannot be cared for the way they should be.

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