From the pharmacy to technology: Exploring options for managing pain
Maybe your knees aren’t what they once were, and a leisurely walk around the block has become a painful ordeal. Perhaps too much time hunched in front of the computer has left your shoulders an aching mess.
Young or old, you’re in good company. More than 11 percent of Americans suffer from chronic pain, according to the National Institutes of Health, and are looking for ways to rid themselves of those aches – even if just temporarily – so they can enjoy life without wincing and groaning.
“People can experience chronic pain for a number of reasons,” said Dr. Ronald Shapiro, medical director of Physicians Technology LLC. “They may have had an injury. They may have arthritis. Sometimes, just sitting too long at the computer without a break can lead to shoulder problems.”
Although anyone can experience chronic pain, a National Institutes of Health study showed that women, older people and non-Hispanics were more likely to report pain. Asians were less likely to report pain.
Shapiro said there are a number of options patients can turn to for treating pain. Some of those include:
Both over-the-counter and prescription medications are used by millions of Americans. Those medications do provide relief, although the Centers for Disease Control recently urged physicians to cut down on the amount of opioids they prescribe because of the risk that patients can become addicted to these narcotics, as well as the alarming increased incidence of fatal prescription medication overdoses.
A good physical therapist can do wonders for helping to alleviate patients’ pain and assist them in achieving a more active lifestyle than they might have imagined. The downside is that the cost of those weekly visits can add up.
Complementary health approaches
The NIH study says that many people turn to such alternative approaches to pain relief as yoga, massage and meditation. The NIH says those may be able to help with managing pain and other symptoms that are not consistently addressed by prescription drugs and other conventional treatments.
Technology is emerging as an alternative option for temporarily relieving pain, especially as a replacement for medication. Shapiro, for example, has been involved in research in that area and co-invented, with David B. Sutton, a device for home use called the Willow Curve, a low-level smart device that treats joint pain. Because it’s also a smart computer, the device assesses the condition of the joint and delivers a targeted digital treatment to temporarily relieve pain. A variety of ailments can be treated with such technaceuticals, including arthritis, general joint pain, knee pain, tennis elbow and rotator-cuff injuries, among many others.
“The opportunity is out there to improve the quality of life for anyone who suffers from chronic pain,” Shapiro said. “A person shouldn’t feel that they just have to endure it. Whether it’s technology, physical therapy or something else, they have options that can make their day-to-day living a lot better.”
For more information, visit willowcurve.com.
Dr. Ronald Shapiro is medical director and co-founder of Physicians Technology LLC and is co-inventor of the Willow Curve.