Medically reviewed on February 24, 2023 by Jordan Stachel, MS, RDN, CPT. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.
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Telemedicine has dramatically shifted how we approach our health and wellness. From a virtual telemedicine appointment to Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM), it enables people to access cost-effective, quality medical care from the comfort and convenience of their homes .
Telemedicine pain management is just one part of this movement in healthcare. Also referred to as “remote pain management,” it gives healthcare providers the ability to monitor the level of their patient’s pain and modify, extend, or end their treatment.
Read on for how telemedicine pain management works and when, where, and why it can be valuable for patients and the healthcare industry as a whole.
What is telemedicine?
How does telehealth work? Telemedicine is a way of providing clinical care from a distance. Rather than visiting your healthcare provider in person for checkups, lab test results, diagnoses, and so on, telehealth lets you receive counseling and care through a telemedicine appointment via communications like:
- Virtual telemedicine visits through online services (e.g., Zoom)
- Using digital monitoring devices (e.g., pulse oximeters or glucose monitors)
- Access to a patient medical care portal
- SMS (text message)
Telemedicine is one part of the broader domain of telehealth, which has been expanding in reach and sophistication since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.
What is pain management?
Pain management refers to the administration and supervision of treatment plans for patients living with acute or chronic pain.2 These treatment plans are designed to help patients cope with any pain that may come with health-related conditions and/or events like:
- A traumatic fall or accident
- Chronic health conditions like rheumatoid arthritis or cancer
- Spinal injuries and back problems, like sciatica
- Autoimmune conditions, like Crohn’s disease or lupus
- Neuropathological conditions like carpal tunnel syndrome
- Pain disorders like fibromyalgia
- Reproductive conditions like endometriosis
What are common treatments in a pain management plan?
Your healthcare practitioner may use a single form of treatment or a combination of treatments to mitigate your pain and enhance your overall quality of life. Your chronic pain management care plan, of course, depends on the event you experience, your diagnosis or condition, and other factors like lifestyle.
That said, some common approaches to pain management include:
- Prescription medications, like muscle relaxers, antibiotics (for infections), or anti-inflammatory drugs.
- Hands-on treatments, including massage, acupuncture, physical therapy, and chiropractic adjustments.
- Injections, like steroids for diminishing inflammation and swelling.
- Therapeutic interventions, such as Dialectic Behavioral Therapy (DBT) or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). CBT can help patients manage depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues that can coincide with chronic pain and their underlying causes and conditions.
What is telemedicine pain management?
As its name suggests, telemedicine pain management is the marriage of these two practices: remote clinical care for the treatment of temporary or persistent pain. It’s an approach that can be beneficial for both patients and their providers, as chronic pain affects an estimated 20.4% of the population .
Here’s how telemedicine pain management works:
- After an initial in-person or virtual visit, your healthcare provider will draw up a treatment plan to keep your pain at bay. The plan will depend on the nature of your pain, its severity, and the expectations for recovery outcomes.
- Virtual visits, phone consultations, Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM), and other telemedicine tools are used to monitor patient progress, to make adjustments, to recommend lifestyle changes, and so on. It’s best if you properly learn how to prepare for a telehealth appointment before your consultation.
- During virtual consultations, your healthcare provider may: discuss your pain and other symptoms; ask you to perform physical movements to gauge your headway; assess you for infections (for example, examine a cut you sustained during an accident); evaluate your facial expressions and body language to gain insight into your pain levels .
- Changes may be made to your pain management plan based on your telehealth visits, in-person visits, and other factors. For instance, your healthcare provider may wean you off pain medications or supplement medication with physical therapy.
What are the benefits of telemedicine pain management?
Telemedicine pain management has a handful of advantages, chiefly:
- Comfort and convenience – If you have a broken leg or severe back pain, getting to your healthcare provider’s office can be physically and mentally taxing. Virtual visits, RPM, and other telehealth functions can help ensure you receive ongoing treatment. They may also reduce your risk of a setback or further injury from physical travel.
- Accessibility and affordability – For patients with chronic or acute pain who live some distance away from a healthcare office, booking an appointment and seeing a healthcare provider or specialist can be costly and time-consuming. Telemedicine pain management can help save both money and time.
- Reduced risk of exposure to contagious diseases – Whether you have a bout of sudden pain that seems to warrant an emergency room visit or simply need to have your healthcare provider refill a prescription, telemedicine eliminates the risk of exposure to the germs you might encounter in an emergency or waiting room.
- Improved adherence to treatment regimens – It’s easy to forget to take your medications or to follow your treatment plan, particularly if you’re distracted by acute pain. RPM and close communication with your healthcare provider over text or email might increase your compliance with your treatment plan.
What are the disadvantages of telemedicine pain management?
Although remote pain management can be advantageous, it does have a few drawbacks. These include the following.
Lack of hands-on treatment
If your healthcare provider recommended you receive hands-on treatments like osteopathic manipulation treatment (OMT) or acupuncture, you’ll have to visit specialists in person or have them come to your home.
Reduced access for some
Telemedicine typically requires a smartphone or another device, as well as Wi-Fi, which isn’t accessible to everyone. Others may have limited data on their phone plans. Concerns like these fall under the umbrella of the “digital divide” in healthcare, which describes a disparity in access to high-quality care for technology-related reasons .
Potential misuse and abuse of painkillers
Individuals who suffer from chronic pain are at a heightened risk of developing opioid use disorder . While telemedicine can be helpful for many reasons, in-person visits may be needed for exams like:
- Assessing signs of addiction
- Performing urine tests
- Evaluating comorbidities or preexisting conditions that may increase the risk of misuse, like a history of mental health disorders
Discover the potential of telemedicine via Everlywell
Telemedicine has changed the way healthcare is conducted, including the management of brief and long-lasting pain. While telemedicine pain management is not a catch-all panacea, it can be one of many valuable tools in your recovery plan.
A leading digital health company, the experts at Everlywell believe everyone should have affordable access to insightful at-home lab tests and virtual visits. From our wide range of at-home wellness tests, to helping refill prescriptions, explore the virtual health services accessed via Everlywell to take control of your health and wellness today.
Benefits of telehealth: 5 advantages for patients
Benefits of remote patient monitoring
How to prepare for a telehealth appointment
How does telehealth work?
- Telehealth: Technology meets health care. Mayo Clinic. Published May 15, 2020. URL
- Pain Management: Painkillers, Chronic Pain, Pain Relief, Nerve Pain. Cleveland Clinic. URL
- Products - Data Briefs - Number 390 - November 2020. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Published November 4, 2020. URL
- Perez J, Niburski K, Stoopler M, Ingelmo P. Telehealth and chronic pain management from rapid adaptation to long-term implementation in pain medicine: A narrative review. PAIN Reports. 2021;6(1):e912. doi:https://doi.org/10.1097/pr9.0000000000000912
- Telemedicine: Progress Made During Pandemic Offers Chance for Widespread Adoption. NIH HEAL Initiative. Published August 9, 2021. URL
- Kaye AD, Jones MR, Kaye AM, et al. Prescription Opioid Abuse in Chronic Pain: An Updated Review of Opioid Abuse Predictors and Strategies to Curb Opioid Abuse (Part 2). Pain Physician. 2017;20(2S):S111-S133.