Managing Pain in Recovery Without Opioids

Managing Pain in Recovery Without Opioids

Chronic pain is an issue that affects millions of American’s every year. While opioids are proven effective in treating various ailments, it’s not always feasible to use the medication in the long-term. Although some individuals may be able to use the drugs as prescribed, many others will fall into the trap of addiction. Despite their positive attributes, opioids carry a bad reputation. The opioid crisis claims the lives of 128 people in the United States each day, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

The U.S. Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated 20.4 percent of U.S. adults struggled with chronic pain in 2016. Another eight percent had high-impact chronic pain. The report found the condition was more prevalent in those living in poverty and adults with public health insurance. Managing pain in recovery poses an even more significant challenge because opioids might be the only pain relief source. However, the risk of losing their lives must also be taken into account. So how can we manage pain in recovery without opioids?

What Are Alternatives to Opioids?

Fortunately, modern medicine has evolved to include various treatments that don’t contain opioids. It’s a match made in heaven for those managing pain in recovery without opioids. The most common over-the-counter medications to combat pain include ibuprofen, Tylenol, aspirin, and steroids. Most patients report these are all they need, while others may notice relief from non-drug therapies that can be used in conjunction with these medications.  

  • Physical therapy: Physical therapists or physicians who specialize in rehabilitation can work with you to develop an exercise program to decrease your pain and improve your ability to function. Deep-muscle massages can also be useful.
  • Surgery: If you find that other treatments are not successful, surgery might be a successful alternative. Surgery can help correct abnormalities that might be responsible for pain.
  • Acupuncture: Acupuncture is another alternative method where thin needles are inserted in different points in your skin to interrupt pain signals. 
  • Nerve blocks or injections: If you struggle with nerve pain or muscle spasms, local anesthetic injections can help decrease your pain. 

Others might find relief from relaxation techniques that include biofeedback, which is learning to control involuntary functions like your heart rate. Other patients also report great success from massages.

High-Tech Methods for Chronic Pain

Patients that struggle with severe pain conditions like complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) won’t find relief from non-opioid medications or physical therapy. Fortunately, technological advances in medicine have led to techniques that can help relieve the condition, especially those managing pain in recovery without opioids. 

Some of the latest high-tech methods include:

  • Nerve blocks: Pain management physicians use x-ray imaging to inject numbing medication to block pain. It has the potential to stop chronic pain from developing. 
  • Radio waves: Radiofrequency methods include needle insertion next to the nerve responsible for your pain. It burns the nerve using an electric current and can provide relief for up to a year. 
  • Electric signals: Electric nerve stimulation may provide short-term relief for pain sufferers, especially for muscle pain. It works by sending low-voltage electric signals from a device to the skin. 
  • Spinal cord stimulation: This is a solution when all other methods fail. Pain specialists may recommend this procedure to replace pain with a more tolerable sensation, such as tingling or a massage-like feeling. The technique can help those with back pain and neuropathy. 

If you’re struggling with chronic pain, you must speak to a physician to seek alternatives to opioids. If you’re in recovery, you’re at greater risk of becoming addicted to opioids.

Sources

NIDA (November 2020) Opioid Overdose Crisis. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/drug-topics/opioids/opioid-overdose-crisis

NIDA (November 2020) Over-the-Counter-Medicines. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/drug-topics/over-counter-medicines#:~:text=Over%2Dthe%2Dcounter%20

CDC (September 2018) Prevalence of Chronic Pain and High-Impact Chronic Pain Among Adults. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/67/wr/mm6736a2.htm

NIDA (November 2020) Opioids. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/drug-topics/opioids

NIH (November 2020) Complex Regional Pain Syndrome Fact Sheet. Retrieved from https://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/patient-caregiver-education/fact-sheets/complex-regional-pain-syndrome-fact-sheet

Author

Christopher Schumacher

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