The statistics regarding the opioid crisis in the United States are grim. According to the CDC, deaths from opioid overdoses have quadrupled since 1999, and every day more than 1,000 people end up in emergency rooms because of prescription opioid misuse.
Dr. Paul Christo, one of the nation’s foremost experts on pain management, knows what opioids can do and what they can’t do. In fact, educating patients and helping them set realistic expectations when it comes to opioids are integral parts of his role at Johns Hopkins Hospital where he specializes in treating patients with persistent pain in the spine, cancer pain, neuropathic pain, shingles pain, post-surgical pain and thoracic outlet syndrome.
Opioid therapy is just one option and one that Dr. Christo reserves for a minority of his patients after a careful assessment of risks, benefits and medical necessity. There are numerous non-opioid, integrative and innovative approaches to managing chronic pain, including injections, nerve blocks, pain pumps and spinal cord stimulation; in addition to alternative treatments such as exercises, VR immersion, art therapy, aromatherapy and cognitive behavioral therapy.
When necessary, opioid therapy is safe for those suffering from chronic pain who take their medications responsibly, are closely monitored by their physicians, and are properly educated by their doctors about the risks and benefits of opioid use. But patients and their physicians should also explore the full range of options available and create a balanced approach that employs complementary treatments that can put patients on a path to pain relief.
Dr. Paul Christo is one of the world’s leading pain specialists and author of Aches and Gains, A Comprehensive Guide to Overcoming Your Pain. He’s an associate professor in the Division of Pain Medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. He hosts an award-winning, nationally syndicated SIRIUS XM radio talk show on overcoming pain called Aches and Gains.
Dr. Christo is an international lecturer, serves on four journal editorial boards, has published more than 100 articles and book chapters, co-edited three textbooks on pain, and actively teaches medical students, residents and pain fellows. He’s a member of the Men’s Health Magazine medical advisory board, serving as their first pain specialist. Dr. Christo has directed or coordinated many national conferences that focus on educating both specialists and generalists on important aspects of pain diagnosis and treatment.
He serves on the board of directors and executive committee of the American Academy of Integrative Pain Management and has served on advisory boards for the American Academy of Pain Medicine, American Society of Anesthesiologists, the International Association for the Study of Pain and the American Pain Society.