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Chronic pain patients say pandemic compounding medication access troubles

Posted at 10:11 PM, Dec 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-23 10:29:14-05

CAPE CORAL, FLA — The pain patient in this story has asked to remain anonymous due to concerns about backlash.

A tearful plea to other chronic pain patients came Tuesday from a Fort Myers living room:

"Just hold on. Hold on," said the woman, "I'm hearing and seeing of suicides every day."

It comes from a survivor who's no stranger to daily pain, after a rollover crash about 20 years ago.

"I actually have the spine of a 90-year-old," she said, "My pain is constant."

It's pain, she says, that's been made worse for thousands during the pandemic because doctor's offices were closed and access to pain medication was scarce for some patients.

"Just getting in touch with them, setting up the virtual visits which they finally got done. But yeah it was difficult," she said.

But the issue with access to pain medication is one that she, and many other pain patients, tell FOX 4 started way before the pandemic.

"We're fighting to have a voice; we're fighting to be heard," she said.

They say it links back to CDC guidelines pushed out in 2016, in an effort to curb opioid overdoses.

But those with chronic pain say it's made it difficult to get find doctors who'll prescribe their medications and get a pharmacy to fill the prescription.

"It was never meant for pain patients," she said.

The American Medical Association, or AMA, has recently called for those guidelines to be reversed. And the CDC has created a task-force to look into the matter.

Chronic pain advocate Richard Lawhern says the community is fighting to get those guidelines pushed back too.

"There is a lot of confusion about whether prescribing really is the problem," he said.

And Lawhern says this is one of the best ways to help get those guidelines changed:

"You can call your legislator," he said.

But in the meantime, that woman says medication or not, she's left asking herself this question, every single day.

"What is an acceptable amount of pain that I can function with?" she said.

But while chronic pain patients wait for change, many are still without adequate pain management. FOX 4 spoke to California-based pain specialist Kevin Yates who says pain patients out there are also dealing with limited access to care.

Yates shared these tips for managing chronic pain, whether pain patients opt to use medication:

"A lot of time we look at chronic pain as just a physical thing right? "What exercises do I need? What stretches do I do? Do I use ice? Heat?' Nutrition is every bit as every bit as important and sometimes even more important.""A lot of time we look at chronic pain as just a physical thing right?" He said, "What exercises do I need? What stretches do I do? Do I use ice? Heat?' Nutrition is every bit as every bit as important and sometimes even more important."