Pain from all sides: Hospitals balance pain management with fears of opioid addiction

Hospitals, under pressure to stem an epidemic of opioid addiction, also face mounting criticism that they don't do enough to manage patient pain.

Indeed, 8 in 10 patients say that hospital staff haven't received adequate training in pain management, according to an online survey of 1,250 acute and chronic pain patients by Pain News Network and the International Pain Foundation.

Nearly 30 percent report the quality of their medical care in hospitals as poor or very poor. But more than half rated the quality of pain care in hospitals as poor or very poor.

"It's so bad that I will not seek treatment in an ER or hospital unless I really feel like my life is in jeopardy," one patient said in the survey. "They do not get it, they do not listen, and they do not care."

Many patients said that even though they were often admitted to the hospital because of pain, their pain is either untreated or under-treated. And the survey revealed that many healthcare providers agree.

"Many of my colleagues would refuse to medicate patients in pain, especially women in pain. They had many misconceptions that women were attention seeking, or exaggerating their pain," a nurse told the publication. "They also believed that even short-term opioid therapy would 'create' addiction."

But fear of overprescribing pain killers and addiction is a legitimate concern. Recent statistics indicate that an average of 44 people die each day as a result of opioid abuse and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has announced guidelines for prescribing opioids for chronic pain.

As a result, New Jersey hospitals have taken several steps to try to stop the epidemic of opiate addiction, trying alternative methods to treat patient pain, reports.

For example, emergency room doctors at St. Joseph's Regional Medical Center in Paterson, now treat kidney stones, sciatica and broken bones with nerve blocks, anti-inflammatory medication and other non-narcotics, according to the publication. Surgeons in hospitals across the state also no longer rely on opiates and try nerve blocks to ease pain.

The alternatives have been shown to reduce the amount of time patients stay in the hospitals and rehabilitation facilities--and save significant costs as a result, the publication reported.

To learn more:
- read about the survey findings
- here's the article
- check out the CDC guidelines