Skip to site content

Indian Health Service The Federal Health Program for American Indians and Alaska Natives

Share This Page:

Pain Management

Doctor holding medication and writing a prescription

Meeting the Needs of Chronic Pain Patients

Meeting the needs of patients struggling with chronic pain while at the same time preventing the illegal or harmful use of opioids are two important challenges physicians face. This website on pain management for patients with chronic pain offers basic information about managing chronic pain-including opioid prescribing-with references to more detailed, authoritative materials. Please make use of the materials mentioned throughout this site.

If you decide to use some of the information from this site, make sure you understand and consider the following:

Appropriate prescribing of opioid medications and management of chronic pain are of critical importance within the Indian Health Service. In March 2016, the CDC developed and published the CDC Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain to provide recommendations for the prescribing of opioid pain medications. Our multidisciplinary Prescription Drug Abuse Workgroup is excited about the opportunity to review this newly published guideline and determine how to revise our existing evidence-based policy and website, as appropriate, based on these new recommendations.

The information available on this site is intended for adults who are licensed health care professionals and for patients. However, this site is not a substitute for clinical judgment and does not offer medical advice. Patients should consult their physicians or, in serious cases, contact emergency services. Health care professionals should confirm information available on this site with other sources.

Use of this site is at the user’s risk. Information is provided on an “as is” basis. There is no warranty or guarantee for the information provided on this site.

What Is Chronic Pain?

Chronic pain is defined as persistent pain, which can be either continuous or recurrent and of sufficient duration and intensity to adversely affect a patient's well-being, level of function, and quality of life. Chronic pain is persistent, typically 3 months or more, and exists beyond an expected time for healing. The cause of pain may not be removable or otherwise treated. It may occur despite generally accepted medical treatment.

What Are Opioids?

Throughout the site, we refer to opioids, which are natural or synthetic derivatives of opium that act on the central nervous system to relieve pain. The term "opioid" is used to distinguish pain medications from illegal narcotics used to induce euphoria.