It is common for women to suffer unnecessarily from conditions ranging from backaches to pain after cancer surgery and various other chronic pain conditions such as Fibromyalgia, despite the wide variety of pain treatments available and the availability of physicians who are specialized in treating pain. The medical community’s inability to effectively treat chronic pain in women, however, is leading women toward treating their pain with potentially harmful or often ineffective medications, according to the American Society of Anesthesiologists® (ASA®).
ASA conducted a review to help to raise awareness of the large variety of options available for controlling acute and chronic pain, and to highlight the role of pain medicine specialists in choosing the right treatment. Furthermore, the ASA hopes through its efforts to promote research showing several other important pain-related findings, such as that music, yoga and rose oil are effective for some types of pain; opioids often seem to be used in a wrong way; and anesthesia used for breast cancer surgery can impact how fast and comfortable a woman can recover from the procedure.
Physician anesthesiologists are among the pain medicine experts in the medical field, and play a critical role in these issues. Dr. Donna-Ann Thomas is a member of ASA’s Committee on Pain Medicine and has frequently observed women who have suffered in silence for years because of chronic pain caused by breast cancer surgery or back pain that often develops after childbirth.
Regarding women who come to see her with sciatica, Dr. Thomas said in a press release: “I can’t tell you the number of women I see who have been told they just have to live with the pain. It’s just heart breaking because many of these women have been suffering a long time. Women, especially older women, are less likely to speak up and seek treatment for their pain.”
Regarding the “phantom” pain that usually remains untreated after breast cancer surgery: “It’s fairly clear-cut when someone has phantom pain after a limb amputation, but it’s often overlooked when a woman has the same pain after a mastectomy or lumpectomy and she suffers unnecessarily,” Dr. Thomas explained.
Patients are evaluated and treated with one of several therapies, sometimes combined; it can include injections, medications, acupuncture and biofeedback. The goal is to keep the pain controlled under levels that can be managed by the patients — a goal that the ASA hopes to achieve for women dealing with these chronic pain issues.