Chronic Pain in First Responders

How Can Biometric Telehealth Help First Responders with Chronic Pain?

A career as a first responder can be highly rewarding. But a job as a police officer, firefighter, EMT, or emergency responder comes with many risks. For one, you need a great deal of stamina. Long hours on the job, irregular shifts, erratic sleep schedules, and missed meals are all part of the deal. And in addition to being physically demanding, first responder occupations are emotionally challenging.

Occupational hazards increase the chances of first responders suffering from work- related injuries developing chronic pain (chronic pain is defined as any pain that lasts more than 3 months). For this reason, first responders are often the subject of workers’ compensation claims. To make matters worse, the nature of the job often makes it difficult to for first responders to obtain pain treatment. Unfortunately, many of the commonly used treatments, such as opioid medications (painkillers), are not always successful in managing chronic pain. Moreover, they are associated with many side effects and the risk of physical dependence.

The biopsychosocial model of pain management recognizes that chronic pain is the result of many factors, including the patient’s genetic and developmental history,
physical injuries, psychological state, and cultural background. These factors interact with the patient’s environment which includes the home, workplace, healthcare providers, and disability system. Pain treatment is, therefore, a complex problem that requires an evidence-based comprehensive interdisciplinary approach.

At the Institutes of Health, we practice an interdisciplinary biopsychosocial model of pain management. However, it is not always possible for first responders to receive care in our clinic due to a lack of time and other resources. Our immersive biometric telehealth program makes effective pain treatment accessible to first responders. This platform has many unique features and characteristics that can help first responders with chronic pain get better. This integrated online telehealth platform allows first responders to receive treatment in the privacy of their homes or without leaving the workplace. In this article, we discuss chronic pain in first responders and how biometric telehealth can help them deal with it.

Causes of Chronic Pain in First Responders

First responders regularly risk harm to themselves to protect others. Their work frequently involves physical exertion and mental strain. Some of the leading causes of injuries among first responders include motor vehicle accidents, shootings, slips and falls, and overexertion.

Emergency work can also include exposure to hazards such as extreme weather, harmful chemicals, and smoke. Injuries like sprains, strains, bruises, contusions, cuts, lacerations, burns, and fractures can occur while on the job.

Musculoskeletal injuries, and consequently, chronic pain is common among first responders, as are conditions like fibromyalgia, RSD, and CRPS. Studies have shown that police officers and career firefighters have the highest work-related injury rates. 1

Consequences of Chronic Pain in First Responders

Chronic pain has a negative impact on multiple aspects of a first responder’s life. Some of the long-term consequences include:

• Chronic pain and sleep problems
• Impaired cognition and brain function
• Chronic pain and weight gain
• Poor mood and mental health
• Chronic pain and depression
• Negative effects on sexual health
• Chronic pain and opioid dependence
• Reduced overall quality of life

It is evident from the above-mentioned far-reaching effects of chronic pain that it needs to be treated effectively and promptly. Without pain treatment, the problem can become increasingly complex and difficult to treat over time. Treatment is necessary not only to limit the health consequences of chronic pain in first responders but also to relieve the significant economic burden it can cause.

Effective Management of Chronic Pain

Chronic pain can be incapacitating for first responders, preventing them from doing their job properly or returning to function after a work-related injury. Conventional treatments for chronic pain are not always successful. Research has shown that psychosocial factors, such as mood and cultural beliefs, are strongly linked to the patient’s symptoms. In other words, pain is a complex condition with several contributing factors that interact with each other.

The biopsychosocial model has proven most useful in treating chronic pain conditions. This model recognizes that several mechanisms are involved in the patient’s experience of pain. In addition to the physical disease or workers’ compensation injury, this model places importance on the patient’s genetic, developmental, cognitive and emotional responses to pain. In essence, a biopsychosocial model is a multidimensional approach that uses self-management (the patient’s involvement in the healing process) in addition to medical management.

At the Institutes of Health, we use an evidence-based, interdisciplinary, biopsychosocial approach to managing chronic pain. We offer these programs both on-site in our clinic as well as through an immersive biometric telehealth program.

Getting Treatment for Chronic Pain

Several hurdles prevent first responders from getting adequate pain treatment.

These include:

• Cost of treatment
• Lack of time
• Transportation issues
• Lack of access to effective treatments for chronic pain
• Shame or embarrassment associated with seeking help
• Fear of repercussions at work

Biometric telehealth is an innovative online health platform that allows first responders to obtain effective pain treatment confidentially, saving time and transportation costs.

Steroids, Opioids, and COVID-19 by Institutes of Health
  • Relearning day-to-day skills 
  • Cognitive rehabilitation 
  • Vestibular rehabilitation 
  • Vocational rehabilitation 
  • Psychotherapy 
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy 
  • Medication management 
  • EEG-based neurofeedback for mindfulness and meditation 
  • Rehab movement therapy 
  • Physical therapy 
  • Occupational therapy 

Speech therapy

Biometric Telehealth: Accessible Chronic Pain Management 

The biopsychosocial approach to pain treatment offered on-site at the Institutes of Health clinic has proven outcomes. However, first responders don’t always have the luxury of attending appointments at a physical clinic.

The biometric telehealth platform is an advanced technology that can help first responders obtain chronic pain management from the comfort of their home or workplace. Traditional telehealth platforms consist simply of a video consultation. However, a biometric telehealth application is much more. It is a remote physical exam solution that simulates the patient-physician interaction which typically takes place in an interdisciplinary clinic setting. 

First responders struggling with chronic pain can benefit from the biometric telehealth platform in many ways: 

  • Access to specialist services and advanced rehabilitation programs 
  • Cost savings (no need to travel to the doctor’s office) 
  • Time savings (no need to take time off work) 
  • Improved communication 
  • Continuity of care 
  • Confidential and private treatment 

The Biometric Telehealth platform developed by Institutes of Health essentially recreates the treatment we offer on-site in our clinic, which is an evidence-based, interdisciplinary biopsychosocial approach to chronic pain management. This model addresses all components inherent in best practices. 

Biometric Telehealth for First Responders: What to Expect 

The program’s focus is on self-management. This means you are an equal participant in your journey to recovery, along with your expert healthcare team. The goal is to reduce your subjective symptoms of pain and improve functioning and quality of life. 

The Institutes of Health is a leader in immersive biometric telehealth. We offer a full range of telehealth services for the treatment for chronic pain, PTSD, traumatic brain injuries and sleep disturbances. If you are a first Responder (police, border patrol, fireman, or emergency worker) talk to your physician about referring you to our program with proven outcomes. We also invite workers’ compensation claims managers and attorneys to call us and find out more about our Biometric Telehealth platform for chronic pain in first responders. 

References: 

1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19894221