Pain Management | KUNC

Pain Management

Ann Jones tried everything short of surgery for her chronic migraines, which have plagued her since she was a child.

"They've actually gotten worse in my old age," says Jones, who is 70 years old and lives in Tucson, Ariz.

Jones would have as many as two dozen migraines a month.

Over the years, some treatments might work initially, but the effects would prove temporary. Other medications had such severe side effects she couldn't stay on them.

Lori Pinkley, a 50-year-old from Kansas City, Mo., has struggled with puzzling chronic pain since she was 15.

She's had endless disappointing visits with doctors. Some said they couldn't help her. Others diagnosed her with everything from fibromyalgia to lipedema to the rare Ehlers-Danlos syndrome.

The next generation of doctors will start their careers at a time when physicians are feeling pressure to limit prescriptions for opioid painkillers.

Yet every day, they'll face patients who are hurting from injuries, surgical procedures or disease. Around 20% of adults in the U.S. live with chronic pain.

The pathway to opioid abuse for women often starts with a prescription from the doctor's office. One reason is that women are more likely than men to seek help for pain.

Pain researchers say that not only do women suffer more painful conditions, they actually perceive pain more intensely than men do.

Virtual reality is not new. But, as people search for alternative ways to manage pain — and reduce reliance on pills — VR is attracting renewed attention.

Imagine, for a moment you've been transported to a sunlit lagoon. And, suddenly, it's as if you're immersed in the warm water and swimming. That's what Tom Norris experiences when he straps on his VR headset.

Medical marijuana
Mark / CC BY 2.0

Colorado lawmakers passed several bills this year dealing with prevention and treatment of the state's opioid crisis. Senate Bill 13, which took effect on Aug. 2, allows doctors to recommend the use of medical marijuana as an alternative to opioids, like oxycodone, to treat acute pain.

KUNC's Stephanie Daniel spoke with Kyra Buckley to discuss the new law.

We praise athletes, at every level, for their ability to compete, to dazzle, to perform under pressure, to inspire and — maybe most importantly — to win.

And when they fall down, when they tear, break or injure themselves, they promise to pick themselves back up, come back stronger than ever and carry their team to victory — thus solidifying their seemingly superhuman performance.

But what goes into recovery? How do athletes get better? And then how do they stay healthy?

Often, recovery — and general pain management in sports — involves medication.