Are You on the Right Path to Managing Your Pain?

Medications can be essential for managing pain. Unfortunately, not everyone reacts to medication in the same way.

14 Feb, 2018





When pain is radiating through your body, you might be tempted to take any medication you can to get it under control.

You might not be thinking about potential side effects of the medication. Is the medication working the way it is supposed to?

You aren’t alone

Research carried out by myDNA has shown that nearly 1 in 3 Australians have suffered chronic pain and taken pain medication in one form or another in the last 12 months. The study has also shown that while people are cautious about taking too much pain medication, many don’t care about the side effects until they are affected by them.

The recent changes that have seen codeine become a prescription-only medication has brought the issues around managing pain into the spotlight.

a person in a blue sweater taking pills out of aluminium packaging
Sometimes it hurts for no reason

Take the case of Sarah Steel, who has been suffering from chronic back pain for 15 years. She was just 18 years old when it first manifested and doctors haven’t been able to identify the cause despite repeated tests. This is a familiar story for many of those who deal with chronic pain.

Sarah tried just about everything to manage her pain, from physiotherapy and exercise physiology to acupuncture and massages. The pain simply wouldn’t go away.

Her pain can be so intense that it affects her ability to work. She manages the pain with ibuprofen and paracetamol but when it worsens, she turns to codeine. She was concerned that the change to prescription-only would limit her ability to manage her own pain.

Connecting your medication to your DNA

Sarah ordered a myDNA Medication Report to find out more about how her genes influence the way she processes medication.

She learnt that she has reduced function of her CYP2C9 gene, which means she could be at risk of increased side effects from ibuprofen. Whilst ibuprofen will be effective as a pain reliever, if she raises her dose to higher levels there could be a risk of side effects.

Sarah also has reduced function of her CYP2D6 gene. This means that for her, codeine converts less efficiently into the active substance morphine, although it still provides pain relief. However if certain other medications are added to her medication then codeine may not give her pain relief anymore.

The report provided Sarah and her GP with a more detailed picture of what would work best for her.

Taking the right course of action

Before she ordered her report, Sarah had been reluctant to pay for GP consults to get a codeine prescription. However, her myDNA report suggested that for her, there were increased risks associated with ibuprofen which meant that codeine was more suitable and that it’s worth getting a prescription.

This genetic report provides an additional layer of information that Sarah’s GP can consider when deciding the best course of action to help her manage her pain.

Each person is different and will respond differently to pain medication. Genetic information can enable doctors and patients to make better informed decisions.

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