By Aisha Langford
MOST OF US have, unfortunately, experi-
enced pain. Pins and needles, sharp, dull, achy
or burning, pain provides an unpleasant sen-
sory reaction to injury or illness. While many
of us have suffered acute pain, which can last
for days, weeks or a few months, a vast number
of people suffer the challenging, frustrating
and debilitating agony of chronic pain, defined
as pain that lasts for six months or longer.
The American Academy of Pain Medicine
( painmed.org) estimates that 100 million
Americans are living with chronic pain. In
fact, according to research, more Americans
are affected by chronic pain than by cancer,
heart disease and diabetes combined.
Dealing with chronic pain can be over-
health org), recommend that you talk to your pri-
mary care provider any time you have pain
that concerns you. “The goal is to prevent
long-term pain. If pain bothers you, then
bring it up to your doctor as soon as possible,”
says Cowan, a Costco member.
A pain specialist is an expert at diagnosing and treating various types of pain. Such
professionals include orthopedic surgeons,
anesthesiologists and neurologists. Typically,
a referral from a primary care physician is
needed to see a pain specialist.
“A pain specialist will want to hear from
the primary care provider about what’s
going on with the patient and what has been
tried thus far,” says Costco member Dr.
Donna Kalauokalani, a pain management
specialist and director of Folsom Pain
Management in California (folsompainman
Pain relievers or “painkillers” can reduce
or relieve headaches, sore muscles, aches and
pains. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to
pain medicine. The proper treatment depends
on how bad the pain is, if it’s chronic or acute
and the underlying cause of the pain (e.g., cancer, nerve damage or arthritis). Over-the-counter (OTC) medicines relieve some types
of pain. Common OTC medicines include
acetaminophen (Tylenol) and nonsteroidal
anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like aspirin, naproxen (Aleve) and ibuprofen (Advil).
If OTC medicines aren’t enough to manage your pain, a doctor may prescribe narcotics, also known as opioid pain relievers.
Examples of these medicines include codeine,
morphine and oxycodone. These medicines
work by blocking feelings of pain in the brain.
While very effective for severe pain, opioid
pain relievers have the potential to be addictive
and should be taken only under the regular
supervision of a medical professional. “The
risk of addiction is real with opioids. Pain specialists will do a good health assessment before
opioids are prescribed,” says Kalauokalani.
Medication isn’t always
Medication isn’t necessarily “the best” or
first solution that should be tried for chronic
whelming. The good news is that there are
many options to help you cope, including
working with your doctors, medications and
Working with doctors
It may be hard to know when to talk to
your doctor about pain, but patient advocates
like Penney Cowan, executive director of the
American Chronic Pain Association (theacpa.
Weight management, proper sleep,
and exercise have
all been shown to
help reduce pain.
The Costco Connection
A variety of over-the-counter as well as prescription pain-relief medications are available
at Costco warehouses and on Costco.com.