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Managing Chronic Pain Without Opioids

Managing Chronic Pain Without Opioids

There are a lot of options for treating pain without the use of narcotics. The opioid epidemic is spreading across the nation at frightening rates. Many state laws are cracking down on opioid prescriptions to prevent excessive prescribing.

However, this leaves many chronic pain patients feeling lost and confused about what options are available. State medical boards pass law which limits the initial opioid prescriptions to 5 days in an effort to reduce opioid misuse and addiction. Chronic pain is a legitimate medical concern.

Treating Chronic Pain Without Opioids

Over-The-Counter Pain Relievers

Taking OTC pain relievers may not be the best way to manage your chronic pain, but will help reduce symptoms on a daily basis. Many doctors prescribe Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) for those suffering from chronic headaches, osteoarthritis, or rheumatoid arthritis because these medications help fight pain and inflammation.

Physical Therapy

Patients who suffer from chronic pain are typically unable to maintain a healthy, active lifestyle. This leads to weakened joints and muscles. Physical therapy helps patients build up to their full potential by using low-intensity therapies like hydrotherapy and ultrasound. Once they get used to that routine and intensity, the focus can shift to more targeted exercises for their specific pain. Physical therapy encourages a higher quality of life and helps patients regain mobility.

Acupuncture

This ancient Chinese form of pain management is most often used to help treat back and neck pain, osteoarthritis, and chronic headaches. The needles stimulate a nerve, signaling the brain to release endorphins that act as a natural opioid. By stimulating the nerve that runs from your brain to your colon, inflammation will lower and often reduce the cause of pain.

High-Tech Methods for Treating Chronic Pain

With technology, new methods for treating pain are becoming increasingly popular with both doctors and patients.

Radiofrequency Ablations

This process uses heat to reduce pain by eliminating communication to the brain. It’s common in patients who suffer from chronic pain in the lower back, neck, and joints. It provides immediate relief and gets the patient back to a restored quality of life in a shorter amount of time.

Spinal Cord Stimulation

Spinal cord stimulator is an implanted device that sends low levels of electricity directly into the spinal cord to relieve pain. Around the world some 34,000 patients undergo spinal cord stimulator implants each year.

First used to treat pain in 1967, spinal cord stimulation (SCS) delivers mild electrical stimulation to nerves along the spinal column, modifying nerve activity to minimize the sensation of pain reaching the brain. Since the therapy first entered routine use in the 1980s, advances have continued that enable more closely tailoring the therapy to a patient’s individual needs.

SCS is used to treat pain that is mostly neuropathic in origin, that is, pain that arises from nerve damage and does not serve a protective purpose. SCS therapy is most commonly indicated in neuropathic back and leg pain, typically seen in 25% of patients following back surgery. Increasingly SCS is used to avoid futile back surgery. The second commonest indication is to treat the pain associated with complex regional pain syndrome. The third is the pain associated with peripheral neuropathic pain caused by nerve damage beyond the spine or brain, for instance, from viral infection, trauma, surgery or diabetes.

Nerve Block Injections

These injections, with the help of an X-Ray, can dampen or block the pain. Nerve blocks help the pain from spreading to other parts of the body, by minimizing the signals sent to the brain. There are different types of nerve blocks, depending on a patient’s pain. Injections can be used to treat painful conditions, determine the source of pain, or to predict the result of a treatment.

Physicians are using these non-opioid treatments instead of writing prescriptions. Other therapies that don’t include medication like exercise therapy and cognitive-behavioral therapies (CBT) are gaining popularity. They focus on changing the patient’s attitude and awareness of their pain and teaching coping mechanisms to better manage their pain.

If you suffer from chronic pain, talk to your doctor about these alternative options for treating pain.

Sources:

https://www.neuromodulation.com/spinal-cord-stimulation

https://www.asahq.org/whensecondscount/pain-management/non-opioid-treatment/

https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/training/nonopioid/508c/index.html

https://www.asra.com/page/46/treatment-options-for-chronic-pain

https://www.acponline.org/system/files/documents/about_acp/chapters/mn/12mtg/belgrade.pdf

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