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Friday, April 21, 2017

Treating Chronic Pain Without Opioids

Pain, whether it be acute or chronic, affects millions of Americans every day of the week. Arthritis, lower back pain and acute injuries can make it extremely difficult to function—impacting one’s ability to tackle daily responsibilities. The good news is that there are effective drugs available for dulling the painful edge, the bad news is that they are not only
habit-forming, they are extremely dangerous to one’s life.

You probably know by now that we are not referring to Ibuprofen or Acetaminophen. Opioid painkillers are hands down the most effective way to treat any form of pain. And to be fair, not everyone who takes this class of drugs become addicted or experiences an overdose. However, the fact that there are now over 2 million people living with an opioid use disorder in the United States and around 100 people dying from an overdose every day, says that we need to rethink our reliance on the potentially hazardous narcotics.

It practically goes without saying that prescription opioids are entrenched in our healthcare system. They are vital in the performance of medical operations and recovery. End of life patients would suffer greatly without access to narcotic painkillers. People with debilitating chronic pain, would not be able to function without painkillers. However, regarding the latter, utilizing alternatives forms of pain management before resorting to opioids needs to be a priority.


Providing Safe Pain Relief

There are a number of practices that doctors could adopt to better ensure the safety of their patients. It is vital that physicians identify pain patients who may be at risk of addiction and/or overdose, so that alternative therapies can be utilized. Patients who are considered safe to prescribe, need to be written prescriptions responsibly—low dose and limited refills.

The best way to accomplish such a goal is encouraging physicians, according to Christopher J. Burnett, MD, an assistant professor of anesthesiology at the Texas A&M College of Medicine and director of the Baylor Scott & White Health’s Temple Pain Clinic, to adhere to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) prescribing guidelines issued in 2016. In situations that a doctor feels opioids should be avoided Burnett believes that doing nothing about a pain complaint may be the best initial course to take:

"Much of the time, the right thing to do for lower back pain is to simply wait," said Burnett. "It might be an acute injury that will heal on its own given a little time."

There are alternative forms of pain management that can be tried before turning to prescription opioids, including:
  • Anti-Inflammatory drugs
  • Physical Therapy
  • Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS)
  • Acupuncture
  • Massage
"The population of patients who need opioids chronically is actually pretty small," Burnett said. "For most people, the prescription comes with an exit plan. These medications are now considered to be a way to bridge to the next line of therapy."


Pain In Recovery

If you suffer from chronic pain and have become addicted to prescription opioids, breaking the cycle of addiction is extremely important. After the fact, the pain is likely to still be a problem, but returning to opioids should be out of the question. Working with a physician who understands your history could lead to effective methods of pain relief that do not involve opioids. You may never be free from all pain, but it can be reduced to manageable levels allowing you to enjoy life. Please remember, there are many recovering addicts and alcoholics who live fulfilling lives with chronic pain. You can too.

If you are struggling with prescription opioid abuse, please contact Whiteside Manor today.

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