Chronic pain patients are always on the lookout for new trends in chronic pain treatment. Here are four developments in the latest chronic pain treatments.

1. Online post-operative care

Post-operative care is a crucial part of a patient’s recovery. Whether the procedure is routine and outpatient or more involved and requiring a hospital stay, the quality of post-operative care is of paramount importance. After surgery, patients are monitored for normal vital signs, recovery from anesthesia, and proper wound healing. In many cases, post-operative care also includes patient education on what healthy healing looks like, plus referrals for any post-operative therapies that may be necessary.

For some patients, post-operative care can be challenging to get to. Veterans in particular may find travel to and from a Veterans Administration hospital facility challenging or impossible. Because of this, many veterans may miss post-operative appointments, resulting in complications or slow healing and recovery.

Online post-operative care addresses this issue by bringing care to the patient.

A new study by the American College of Surgeons found that many patients actually prefer online post-operative care for routine, uncomplicated procedures. In this study, 50 patients utilized post-operative care online by uploading symptoms and pictures to a secure portal that physicians could access at their convenience. This particular study was designed to assess patient acceptance of this type of care, but the results of the care itself were promising.

Study authors cautioned against a blanket implementation of this system, noting the potential pitfalls in their conclusion:

“The data revealed potential advantages of online postoperative care, including convenient access for patients, decreased patient travel times, and surgeon efficiency gains; however, these

[benefits] must be carefully weighed against potential detriments of using patient-generated data to provide clinical assessment, including concerns about liability, provider work burden, and modified patient-provider relationships.”

2. A new way to diagnose

For many chronic pain patients, the road to a diagnosis is long and winding, often with no end in sight. Patients may travel from specialist to specialist trying to find answers or some kind of diagnosis. A new diagnostic tool may make that path a little easier. CrowdMed is a revolutionary new trend in diagnosis, and it is helping chronic pain patients get on with their healing, quickly and efficiently, by using the power of the crowd.

CrowdMed is an extensive community of people that includes doctors, medical students, and lay people willing to research and put the pieces of your medical puzzle together. This type of crowdsourced diagnostic tool may be the future of complex medical diagnosis that is the hallmark of many chronic pain conditions.

The cases that CrowdMed gets are necessarily complex and difficult. The average patient submitting to CrowdMed has seen eight doctors over seven years of illness, spending an average of $70,000 for no firm diagnosis. For more than 1,000 cases, CrowdMed patients have reported a 60% success rate for a diagnosis, with 50% saying their diagnosis was confirmed by another medical doctor.

For people living with undiagnosed chronic pain, harnessing the power of the crowd may be just what they need to get their lives back.

3. Apps that do more

Mobile apps that serve as medication reminders have been around for awhile, but a new app does more than just remind you when to take your meds. Iodine, available for iOS phones for free, offers ratings, reviews, and recommendations for hundreds of prescription and over-the-counter medications.

While this app should not serve as a substitute for speaking directly with your doctor, it can be very useful when you are standing in the drugstore trying to figure out which cold medicine to buy for your particular symptoms. Iodine also looks at treatments for hundreds of health conditions and personalizes your results to explain side effects that might occur.

An in-app pharmacist is also available to answer questions, and there are over 100,000 reviews and ratings from people just like you. For chronic pain patients, this app might take some of the guesswork out when considering new medications.

4. Laser therapy gets more support

While laser therapy as a treatment for chronic pain is not new, it is always encouraging when new research backs the effectiveness of any treatment for chronic pain. A new study has found that low level laser therapy can be an effective way to manage pain without pills or side effects. Low level lasers are non-invasive, virtually side effect free, and relatively affordable. While each treatment may cost around $100, the pain relief may last up to eight months.

Another type of laser therapy is also gaining ground for treating refractory pain that does not respond to low level laser therapy. Multiwave lock system (MLS) laser therapy uses two therapeutic wavelengths – 808 nanometer (anti-edemic and anti-inflammatory) and 905 nanometer (analgesic) – to reach deeper into tissues and nerves that are affected by pain and inflammation.

According to Dr. Jean Santo, a pain management specialist and anesthesiologist, these synchronized wavelengths cause a metabolic reaction in the cells that stimulates healing and pain relief.

Because laser therapy is administered over a wide area, the procedure is pain-free and completed on an outpatient basis. Effects may vary across patients and depending on the type of chronic pain being addressed, but for some patients, this accessible treatment offers long-term, low-risk relief.

Which of these trends in chronic pain treatments are you most interested in?