Background: Chronic pain is a clinical challenge for the practicing physician. Lack of knowledge about opioids, negative attitudes toward prescribing opioids, and inadequate pain-assessment skills combine to create major barriers to pain relief. Patient-related barriers, such as lack of communication and unwarranted fears of addiction, further complicate pain assessment and treatment. The health care system itself can hinder pain relief through practical constraints in the community and fear of regulatory scrutiny by the physician.
Methods: Information was gathered by doing a literature search, collating clinical information from practice and additional research findings from national meetings, and reviewing the Bulletin of the American Pain Society. Key search terms included "pain," "chronic pain," "pain management," "pain assessment," "pain treatment," and "barriers to pain management."
Results and conclusions: Concrete steps for the clinician engaged in the treatment of chronic pain include selection and administration of an effective opioid, dose titration, short- vs long-acting opioids, opioid rotation, ongoing assessment, and consideration of patient preferences. In addition, communication, coping behaviors, and pain education play important roles in the pain equation.