Challenges of long term pain management
The experience of pain is complex and influenced by the degree of tissue injury, current mood, previous experience of pain and understanding of the cause and significance of pain. Previous unpleasant thoughts, emotions and experiences can also contribute to the current perception of pain and, if unresolved, can act as a barrier to treatment. The assessment of chronic pain needs to be wide-ranging and comprehensive. The persistence of symptoms is particularly relevant in relation to prescribing where patients may be exposed to cumulative harms of drugs over prolonged periods. If a patient continues to have pain despite taking a number of medications, drugs should be sequentially tapered or stopped to establish continued utility. Similarly, if a patient reports reasonable pain relief from a medication regimen in the longer term, it is also necessary to taper medications intermittently to assess whether the symptoms have resolved spontaneously or whether the patient is relatively pain free because of continued efficacy of medication.