The U.S. and West Virginia are in the midst of an opioid crisis, with millions of Americans misusing prescription pain killers. “Orthopaedic surgeons acknowledge their role among the most frequent opioid prescribers,” said West Virginia Orthopaedic Society President Stan Tao, M.D. “We are working diligently and collectively to improve the safety and efficacy of pain relief strategies.”
The goal is no longer to relieve all pain, bucking a trend started in the 1990s with the “pain as the 5th vital sign” effort. Instead, patients should expect some pain with specific orthopaedic conditions, injuries and procedures. Opioids may be appropriate in the hours and days immediately following an injury or surgery; however, it’s important to use as little as possible and to quickly move to safer alternatives.
The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons recently launched a multi-faceted safe pain relief campaign—including a national PSA campaign, patient information web page and online physician tool kit—to educate orthopaedic surgeons and their patients about the dangers and limitations of opioids.
Fortunately, efforts to change the conversation and expectations related to pain are starting to take hold, with the rate of opioid prescriptions by orthopaedic surgeons steadily declining over the past three years. But there is still much more work to do, especially with rising rates of painful conditions such as arthritis.
Please help us continue the safe pain relief conversation—in September during Pain Awareness Month, and throughout the year. For more information, visit OrthoInfo.org/prescriptionsafety.