Meditation on Pain
In the last few years and with the recent death of Prince from an opioid overdose, there has been much concern about what should be done about RX painkillers, addiction, and overdose.
As an oncology nurse, I have mixed feelings abut making it harder for patients to get the pain medication they may need. It can also be a worrisome burden for physicians having to make the call regarding the severity of a patient’s pain vs. possible abuse or addiction, when deciding if they should prescribe pain meds. I also understand there is a serious problem with opioid abuse, addiction, and death due to overdose and I am very supportive of alternative and integrative methods of pain control.
Working with cancer patients, I have witnessed many scenarios regarding pain management. I remember a patient who had rectal cancer and was in extreme pain. His wife was a nurse and did not allow him to take the pain meds prescribed because she was afraid he would become addicted. I have also taken care of patients who constantly say they lose their pain medications or someone in their family is taking them. It’s really hard with cancer patients because many of them are in excruciating pain and really need an opioid to control their pain. When the CDC recently published new guidelines for prescribing opioids for chronic pain, they specified that theses guidelines were for people outside of active cancer treatment, palliative care, and end-of-life care.
I just read an article in the New York times about an ER in New Jersey who has started using alternatives like laughing gas, trigger-point injections, and even a therapy harp, in place of opioids. I find this very encouraging as they have had much success in decreasing opioid use and still controlling their patient’s pain.
I recently had a major operation and was on a PCA pump of Dilaudid for 2 days. I was taken off the PCA pump right before bed, with an order for prn Percocet. I was worried that I would wake up in pain and told the nurse about my concern. She gave me 1 Percocet before I fell asleep. Sure enough, I woke up around 1am, got up to the bathroom, and was in so much pain I was crying and could not get back to my bed without help.
I was discharged the next day and given Tylenol #3 for pain. My surgeon told me he had not written a triplicate in 20 years and did not like to do so. In the past I was given hydrocodone for pain which now requires a triplicate.
When I got home, the Tylenol #3 helped some but I still had a lot of pain! I had to find ways to get through these sensations, and breathing exercises and meditation helped a lot.
During my recovery, I found a meditation I learned during my Yoga Teacher Training. If you are experiencing any pain, give it a try. It is also something you can share with your patients.
What are your thoughts regarding the use of alternatives to opioids for pain control? What techniques have you used in your practice with people who are experiencing pain? Please share in the comments.