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      Pharmacologic Management of Chronic Pain

      , MD, , MD

      The Korean Journal of Pain

      The Korean Pain Society

      chronic pain, pharmacologic management

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          Abstract

          Chronic pain is a multifactorial condition with both physical and psychological symptoms, and it affects around 20% of the population in the developed world. In spite of outstanding advances in pain management over the past decades, chronic pain remains a significant problem. This article provides a mechanism- and evidence-based approach to improve the outcome for pharmacologic management of chronic pain. The usual approach to treat mild to moderate pain is to start with a nonopioid analgesic. If this is inadequate, and if there is an element of sleep deprivation, then it is reasonable to add an antidepressant with analgesic qualities. If there is a component of neuropathic pain or fibromyalgia, then a trial with one of the gabapentinoids is appropriate. If these steps are inadequate, then an opioid analgesic may be added. For moderate to severe pain, one would initiate an earlier trial of a long term opioid. Skeletal muscle relaxants and topicals may also be appropriate as single agents or in combination. Meanwhile, the steps of pharmacologic treatments for neuropathic pain include (1) certain antidepressants (tricyclic antidepressants, serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors), calcium channel α 2-δ ligands (gabapentin and pregabalin) and topical lidocaine, (2) opioid analgesics and tramadol (for first-line use in selected clinical circumstances) and (3) certain other antidepressant and antiepileptic medications (topical capsaicin, mexiletine, and N-methyl-d-aspartate receptor antagonists). It is essential to have a thorough understanding about the different pain mechanisms of chronic pain and evidence-based multi-mechanistic treatment. It is also essential to increase the individualization of treatment.

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          Most cited references 66

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          Neuropathic pain: redefinition and a grading system for clinical and research purposes.

          Pain usually results from activation of nociceptive afferents by actually or potentially tissue-damaging stimuli. Pain may also arise by activity generated within the nervous system without adequate stimulation of its peripheral sensory endings. For this type of pain, the International Association for the Study of Pain introduced the term neuropathic pain, defined as "pain initiated or caused by a primary lesion or dysfunction in the nervous system." While this definition has been useful in distinguishing some characteristics of neuropathic and nociceptive types of pain, it lacks defined boundaries. Since the sensitivity of the nociceptive system is modulated by its adequate activation (e.g., by central sensitization), it has been difficult to distinguish neuropathic dysfunction from physiologic neuroplasticity. We present a more precise definition developed by a group of experts from the neurologic and pain community: pain arising as a direct consequence of a lesion or disease affecting the somatosensory system. This revised definition fits into the nosology of neurologic disorders. The reference to the somatosensory system was derived from a wide range of neuropathic pain conditions ranging from painful neuropathy to central poststroke pain. Because of the lack of a specific diagnostic tool for neuropathic pain, a grading system of definite, probable, and possible neuropathic pain is proposed. The grade possible can only be regarded as a working hypothesis, which does not exclude but does not diagnose neuropathic pain. The grades probable and definite require confirmatory evidence from a neurologic examination. This grading system is proposed for clinical and research purposes.
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            Opioids for chronic noncancer pain: a meta-analysis of effectiveness and side effects.

            Chronic noncancer pain (CNCP) is a major health problem, for which opioids provide one treatment option. However, evidence is needed about side effects, efficacy, and risk of misuse or addiction. This meta-analysis was carried out with these objectives: to compare the efficacy of opioids for CNCP with other drugs and placebo; to identify types of CNCP that respond better to opioids; and to determine the most common side effects of opioids. We searched MEDLINE, EMBASE, CENTRAL (up to May 2005) and reference lists for randomized controlled trials of any opioid administered by oral or transdermal routes or rectal suppositories for CNCP (defined as pain for longer than 6 mo). Extracted outcomes included pain, function or side effects. Methodological quality was assessed with the Jadad instrument; analyses were conducted with Revman 4.2.7. Included were 41 randomized trials involving 6019 patients: 80% of the patients had nociceptive pain (osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis or back pain); 12%, neuropathic pain (postherpetic neuralgia, diabetic neuropathy or phantom limb pain); 7%, fibromyalgia; and 1%, mixed pain. The methodological quality of 87% of the studies was high. The opioids studied were classified as weak (tramadol, propoxyphene, codeine) or strong (morphine, oxycodone). Average duration of treatment was 5 (range 1-16) weeks. Dropout rates averaged 33% in the opioid groups and 38% in the placebo groups. Opioids were more effective than placebo for both pain and functional outcomes in patients with nociceptive or neuropathic pain or fibromyalgia. Strong, but not weak, opioids were significantly superior to naproxen and nortriptyline, and only for pain relief. Among the side effects of opioids, only constipation and nausea were clinically and statistically significant. Weak and strong opioids outperformed placebo for pain and function in all types of CNCP. Other drugs produced better functional outcomes than opioids, whereas for pain relief they were outperformed only by strong opioids. Despite the relative shortness of the trials, more than one-third of the participants abandoned treatment.
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              Use of nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs: an update for clinicians: a scientific statement from the American Heart Association.

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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Korean J Pain
                KJP
                The Korean Journal of Pain
                The Korean Pain Society
                2005-9159
                2093-0569
                June 2010
                31 May 2010
                : 23
                : 2
                : 99-108
                10.3344/kjp.2010.23.2.99
                2886242
                20556211
                Copyright © The Korean Pain Society, 2010

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/), which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

                Categories
                Review Article

                Anesthesiology & Pain management

                chronic pain, pharmacologic management

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