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Help for Chronic Pain


Published on 10/21/2013
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Many people living with chronic pain have found relief through MCMC’s pain-management program.

Long after an injury, illness or surgery has become a memory, the body often can’t seem to let go of the accompanying pain.

Millions of people suffer from chronic pain, but in the Gorge many of those living with it have found relief through the progressive, integrated pain- management program at Mid-Columbia Medical Center.

Eric Holeman is an MCMC pharmacist and nationally credentialed pain management specialists who brings 15 years of experience to bear in making patients’ pain management an integral part of their overall care program.

One of the few pharmacists to earn the national credential from the American Academy of Pain Management, Holeman meets with patients referred by their primary care providers and makes recommendations on relieving their chronic pain.

The MCMC program Holeman leads is unique in that it makes pain management part of patients’ primary care. It allows the primary care provider to focus on the patients’ medical issues while the pain manager focuses on relieving the discomfort.

Chronic pain is defined as discomfort that continues beyond the three- to six-month recovery period following an injury, illness or surgery – when nothing appears to be physically wrong with a patient, but their pain continues.

Holeman’s role is to find the proper medication to stop the hurting while seeking a more permanent solution through other types of therapy, such as counseling, diet or certain forms of exercise, among other options.

“Pharmacists have a unique opportunity to effectively improve chronic pain management through better knowledge of medications and focus on medication management issues,” Holeman says. “Pharmacists are uniquely prepared in this regard.”

Relieving pain with medication is only part of the solution, Holeman says, and it’s a temporary one at that. Permanent pain management is a much more involved process.

One road to that end is education, as MCMC physical therapist Andrew Roof points out in his Explain Pain classes at Water’s Edge Health & Wellness Center.

“Knowledge is power and understanding is healing,” Roof says. His classes are designed to help patients by “retraining the brain,” he says, and the first step is gaining an understanding of how chronic pain works. Then it’s a matter of finding the best course of treatment.

Sometimes, it can be a matter of referring a patient to a professional behavioral counselor to find and learn techniques to cope with or overcome the pain. Or it can be as simple as convincing patients they can resume their normal activities.

“Oftentimes, people will put everything on hold because they think they can’t do things because of their pain,” Roof says. “They’re not finding enjoyment in life. We try to teach them that they can do the things they enjoy and that doing those things can be part of getting past the pain.”

For example, Roof adds, people with chronic pain often reduce their movement, thinking that lessening their activity will help make the pain go away. In fact, he says, inactivity can make the pain worse, while light exercise and activity can be a key in reducing or even eliminating the pain.

Besides the mental aspect of dealing with pain, Roof also looks at patients’ diets or sleep patterns for clues on the best approach to relieving their pain.

Roof sees his role in helping manage pain as part therapist, part educator. He plans to start a new, six-week class on pain management in September. Each 90-minute session is free and open to the public.

To learn more about MCMC’s pain-management program or the Explain Pain class, call Water’s Edge at 541-296-7202.


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