New acute pain guidelines from the ACP and AAFP have limitations


How pain affects mental health

Acute injuries can also lead to disability. Many patients become quite distressed about being unable to work. They often need Famiy & Medical Leave Act forms filled out, and this task usually falls to the primary care doctor. In addition to assessing the pain, we need to be evaluating, at each visit, a patient’s level of functioning and their ability to do their job.

Every patient responds to pain differently, and it is important to evaluate patients’ mindsets regarding theirs. A patient may be in severe pain and may try to ignore it for a variety of reasons. A patient may “catastrophize” their pain, believing only the worst outcome will happen to them. Helping patients set appropriate expectations and having a positive mindset can help.

Overall, the new recommendations are a great tool as a guideline, but they are not complete enough to be the only ones used in managing acute, non–low back, musculoskeletal pain in adults. They are very important for clinicians who may be prescribing opioid medications for patients with this type of pain. Amid an opioid crisis, it is the responsibility of every doctor to prescribe these medications appropriately. The evidence clearly shows they provide little benefit and place patients at risk of addiction.

We should all be following these recommendations as the baseline of care for acute pain. However, we need to delve deeper and manage all the components involved. We would be ignoring very real suffering in our patients if we limited our focus to only the physical discomfort.

Dr. Girgis practices family medicine in South River, N.J., and is a clinical assistant professor of family medicine at Rutgers RWJ Medical School.

SOURCE: Ann Intern Med. 2020 Aug 18. doi: 10.7326/M19-3602.


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