Whether caused by an injury, chronic illness, or surgery, pain can feel debilitating and keep you from living the full life you deserve. When it comes to managing pain, some people turn to heavy drugs that they believe will “knock it out.” What many don’t realize is that addictive painkillers like opioids can be harmful to your body and may keep you from seeking other, more healthy ways of managing pain.
The stats aren’t great.
Some studies suggest that opioids are misused by about one-third of the people who have a prescription. And more than 10% of these people become addicted to pain medications. It may seem like a problem that won’t affect you or your loved ones, but when caught in the incapacitating grip of pain, many patients will do just about anything to feel better. What some people don’t know is that there are options besides opioids that don’t have the same risky side effects.
Different treatments for different types of pain.
Not all pain is created equal. Acute pain is experienced after an injury or surgery and generally lasts for a shorter duration. It may be an intense time, but you can almost bet that you won’t be looking forward to a lifelong journey of pain. Chronic pain, on the other hand, lasts longer than three months and can be caused by a condition, disease, medical treatment, inflammation, or even from unknown reasons.
Depending on which type of pain you have and what your doctor recommends, you could choose from a multitude of options that don’t involve prescription drugs. Even if you don’t think you are someone who could become addicted to drugs, one of the side effects of opioids is a sense of euphoria that many people instantly become eager to feel again, especially if they are not only facing pain but also life stress or a mental illness. Side effects such as drowsiness, dizziness, nausea, and constipation are quite common and seem innocuous. However, staying on pain meds begins to bring up other symptoms, such as dependence on the drug, developing a tolerance so you need to ingest more, and respiratory depression, among many others.
If you are in pain, you will need to decide.
Whether you are experiencing acute or chronic pain, you will need to plan with your doctor, alternative practitioner, physical therapist, or other healthcare provider so that you feel supported in your journey. Deciding to forego the traditional prescription medications doesn’t mean sitting back and feeling miserable. Instead, with the help of your physician, research options that you feel comfortable trying. These could include:
- Over-the-counter pain medications like acetaminophen or ibuprofen
- Topical ointments such as lidocaine
- Exercise therapy, including physical therapy
- Interventional therapies such as injections
- Exercise, weight loss, and other lifestyle changes that help with inflammation
- Antidepressants or anti-seizure meds, which have sometimes been known to help relieve chronic pain
- Cognitive behavioral therapy
- Alternative therapies such as massage, chiropractic care, acupuncture, and more
For those who are recovering from an injury or surgery, physical therapy will most likely be on the calendar quite soon into your recovery since movement can help to relieve pain. Alternative therapies such as acupuncture, massage, and chiropractic care are a more personal choice and, although there is a lot of anecdotal evidence to suggest that these therapies are great for relieving pain, you will need to do some research to find the combination that works best for you.
When it comes to pain management, taking prescription drugs can be dangerous, especially for longer-lasting chronic pain. Instead, why not find ways to manage your pain through a combination of therapies that can help you find relief without dangerous side effects. This month’s National Drug Free Pain Management initiative is a perfect time to take your health into your own hands.