Interventional therapies such as nerve ablation, spinal cord stimulation and steroid and anesthetic injections into problem joints, tissues and nerves are non-surgical procedures that target the parts of the body that generate chronic pain.
These procedures are proven to provide long-term relief something opioids do not. One comprehensive report from experts at six U.S. universities found that evidence of the long-term benefits of opioids is “scant.” And many opioid users continue to have moderate to severe pain and diminished quality of life.
Yet, opioids have become the default solution for many physicians, partly because insurance plans make it easy to do so. Every Medicare plan covers common opioids and does not require prior approval. In fact, some insurers require doctors to prescribe opioids before even considering interventional procedures. Interventional therapies can be more expensive than pills initially, even if they're more effective in the long run. So, health plans often discourage their use, typically by classifying them as “experimental” and therefore providing little or no reimbursement.
Given the scope of the current opioid crisis facing the nation, health care professionals and insurers need to review and re-think how pain is treated. The only way to solve the nation's opioid crisis is to treat chronic pain effectively. By embracing interventional therapies, doctors can do just that.
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