Chronic Pain in Healthcare Workers

Best-in-Class Treatment for Chronic Pain in Healthcare Workers

Healthcare can be a hazardous occupation with a high risk of developing various illnesses. High workloads, poor ergonomics, and tough working conditions often lead to musculoskeletal disorders in different parts of the body, sometimes causing work- related injuries with permanent damage and chronic pain.

Conventional pain treatments are not always effective and can cause several side effects. They also carry a risk of medication addiction. Healthcare workers battling chronic pain can greatly benefit from an evidence-based biopsychosocial system of pain management that has proven outcomes. Now, in addition to receiving this treatment in clinic, healthcare workers can access it remotely through a biometric telehealth platform.

The biopsychosocial model recognizes that multiple factors affect the development of chronic pain, such as genetics, developmental factors, physical characteristics, and the nature of an injury. That’s why two people with nearly identical musculoskeletal injuries can sometimes report vastly different pain levels. The management of chronic pain is further complicated by the fact that the causative factors interact with the patient’s environment, including the home, workplace, disability system, and health providers. Keeping in mind this complex picture, an evidence-based comprehensive interdisciplinary approach is necessary for successful pain treatment.

In this article, we discuss how healthcare workers with chronic pain can access evidence-based pain treatments at specialized facilities and through an online biometric telehealth platform.

Prevalence and Causes of Chronic Pain in Healthcare Workers

Healthcare providers work long shifts, spend hours on their feet, have erratic rest and sleep schedules, and often need to lift and transfer patients. It’s not surprising that chronic pain is a common complaint that affects nearly half of all workers in healthcare settings. 1 

Health workers are also exposed to various injuries, which can lead to a need for pain treatment. Nursing is among the top 10 occupations at risk for musculoskeletal injuries. Studies have found that more than 65% of nurses report chronic pain in the upper extremities and about 34% in the lower extremities. 

Low back pain is another serious occupational hazard among health professionals. It is the second-highest reason for lost productivity and health expenses after cancer pain. 3  An estimated 40 to 98% of nurses suffer from low back pain. 3 In comparison, the prevalence of chronic pain among the general US population is about 20%. 4 

Consequences of Chronic Pain in Health Workers s 

Chronic pain can be disabling for a healthcare worker. Appointment after appointment, test after test, oftentimes without a confirmed diagnosis, can be exhausting, especially for someone who is used to taking care of others. Suffering from a pain you do not understand is frightening, as is often the case in people with fibromyalgia, CRPS, and RSD. Being forced to rely on strong pain pills for relief can take a toll, ultimately leading to other problems, such as chronic pain and sleep problems or chronic pain and depression.
Pain affects many aspects of a health worker’s life. It can lead to insomnia, poor concentration, reduced focus, anxiety and depression. Some healthcare workers develop chronic pain and weight gain. Others struggle with chronic pain and opioid 
dependence. The complex clinical picture can have a negative impact on sexual health and lead to overall poor quality of life.

Because of the far-reaching effects of workers’ compensation injuries in healthcare workers, these conditions need to be treated promptly and effectively. Untreated chronic pain can become increasingly complex over time and more and more challenging to treat, not to mention the significant financial burden it places on the affected health worker. 

Evidence-Based Treatment for Chronic Pain

Healthcare occupations and physically and mentally demanding. Chronic pain can be debilitating and make it impossible for health workers to do their job properly or return to work. Conventional pain treatments rely heavily on medications and are not always effective. The Medical Treatment Utilization Schedule (MTUS) has recommended treatment guidelines for pain that lasts more than 3 months (chronic pain). The biopsychosocial model has proven outcomes in the management of longstanding pain. This model recognizes that pain is the result of a complex interplay between the patient’s pathophysiology, psychological state, and cultural belief system. It also places an emphasis on self-management in which the patient is an equal and willing participant in the treatment plan.

The chronic pain management programs available at the Institutes of Health are evidence-based, interdisciplinary, biopsychosocial programs with proven outcomes. These treatments can be accessed both in the clinic and via an immersive biometric telehealth program.

Access to Pain Treatment

Between work commitments and family life, most health workers have a busy lifestyle with little time to spare. Besides lack of time, barriers such as cost of treatment, transportation problems, and inability to access evidence-based treatments can prevent health providers from getting treatment for chronic pain. 

Biometric telehealth is an option providing an innovative health platform that makes pain treatment accessible to healthcare workers in the comfort of their homes. 

Biometric Telehealth: Effective and Accessible Pain Treatment 

Telehealth has many well-known benefits. It provides access to specialist services and saves both time and cost (there is no need to travel to the doctor’s office). There is improved continuity of care and the treatment is confidential and private. 

Biometric telehealth takes remote care to the next level. It is much more than a simple video consultation. It is an immersive telehealth system that recreates the patient- healthcare team interaction available at the clinic. It allows evidence-based biopsychosocial pain treatment to be delivered to healthcare workers at home or in the workplace. For example, the platform includes a remote physical exam solution that allows the doctor to examine the patient’s heart, lungs, abdomen, ears, throat, and skin.

Other treatment modalities for chronic pain that can be delivered through the Biometric Telehealth Platform include: 

  • Behavioral Pain Medicine 
  • Sleep Medicine 
  • Anti-inflammatory Nutrition 
  • Medication Management 
  • EEG-based Neurofeedback 
  • Fitness Rehabilitation and Functional Restoration 
  • Physical therapy, Occupational Therapy and Vocational therapy
  • Clinical and Neurological Psychology

At the Institutes of Health, we are innovators and leaders in Immersive Biometric Telehealth. We provide a full range of telehealth services for chronic pain rehabilitation and functional restoration, medication management, PTSD, brain injuries, sleep problems, and neuropsychological evaluations. Contact us today to find out more about how our clinic and biometric telehealth programs can help healthcare workers obtain effective pain treatment. 

References: 

1. https://oem.bmj.com/content/75/Suppl_2/A329.2
2. https://www.jcdr.net/articles/PDF/12738/40058_CE[Ra1]_F(SHU)_PF1(AJ_SHU)_PN(SL ).pdf
3. https://internationaljournalofcaringsciences.org/docs/70_ipek_special_10_3.pdf
4. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/67/wr/mm6736a2.htm