woman holding stomach considers how to manage pain without opioids

How to Manage Pain Without Opioids

Opioid use is at an all-time high, and pain is at the root of the problem. Millions of Americans suffer from chronic pain, and doctors often prescribe powerful opioids on an ongoing basis to provide a basic quality of life. Those who are recovering from an injury or surgery are often prescribed opioids as well. If you find yourself in serious or chronic pain, you might be wondering if opioids are your only option. However, it’s possible to manage pain without opioids.

An opioid addiction treatment program can help you manage pain without opioids by offering a range of alternative pain management treatments. As you work with your pain management team, they’ll help you develop an individualized plan to use lifestyle changes and other pain-relieving strategies.

Why It Can Be Difficult to Manage Pain Without Opioids

Using painkillers for pain relief can be a helpful short-term solution—but taking them long-term can put you at risk of developing an addiction and becoming dependent on painkillers. The good news is that there are other pain management strategies you can use to reduce your pain.

Understanding the Risk of Opioids

Taking opioids for pain can be risky and dangerous. The opioid epidemic in the U.S. continues to worsen. Even those with the best of intentions can fall victim to its grasp. In addition to the risk of addiction and abuse, opioids come with many unpleasant side effects. Some of them result only from long-term use of opioids. They include:

  • Sedation
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Respiratory depression
  • Gastroparesis
  • Hyperalgesia
  • Hormone dysfunction
  • Muscle rigidity
  • Myoclonus
  • Depression

Breaking free of painkiller dependence is possible and can offer many long-term benefits. Pain management without opioids is an achievable goal, and you don’t have to live in pain or be dependent on painkillers. Your pain management team can provide an opioid-free pain management plan tailored to your specific needs.

Your Options for Managing Pain Without Opioids

Avoiding opioids for pain doesn’t mean you have to suffer. There are plenty of safe and effective methods for controlling pain. Take a look at a few alternatives to opioids and decide if any may be a good fit for you.

1. Over-the-Counter and Prescription Medications

There are many non-opioid medications available for pain. These include ibuprofen (Advil), acetaminophen (Tylenol), aspirin (Bayer), and steroids. Many find that these medications work just as well as opioids for short-term pain relief. You should note that medications like these can cause kidney, heart, or liver damage if taken for long periods of time.

2. Physical Therapy

The CDC recommends physical therapy as an excellent and long-lasting solution for chronic pain. Aerobic, aquatic and resistance exercises have been shown to help osteoarthritis, chronic back pain, and fibromyalgia. A licensed physical therapist will work to understand the severity of your pain and prescribe an individualized exercise plan. Treatments may also include whirlpool treatment and deep-muscle massages.

3. Trigger Point Injections or Nerve Blocks

Trigger point injections are used to alleviate knots of sore muscles that will not relax on their own. Injections are made up of a local anesthetic with or without steroids. When the doctor administers the injection, the trigger point deactivates, and the pain is alleviated. This treatment can provide lasting relief from pain related to fibromyalgia and tension headaches. Nerve blockers are another type of injection used for managing pain. They treat painful groups of nerves called a plexus or ganglion by directing nerve-numbing medication into certain areas of the body. They’re commonly used to treat neck, back, shoulder, abdominal and facial pain.

4. Psychological Treatment

Pain and mental health conditions can influence each other. For example, if you’re in severe and persistent pain, you’re more likely to be depressed. If you are depressed, your pain is likely to worsen due to physiological stress. In fact, stress has been found to have a powerful impact on pain. Psychological treatments like cognitive-behavioral therapy, mindfulness, and biofeedback therapy help manage pain without opioids.

5. Acupuncture

Acupuncture is now widely accepted, though researchers are still not clear exactly how and why it works. Practitioners insert small needles into acupoints throughout the body to relieve pain. Many acupoints are close to nerves. The related muscles, in turn, send messages to the central nervous system, which causes the release of endorphins to ease the pain. Acupuncture is effective for different types of pain, including headaches, fibromyalgia, carpal tunnel syndrome, tennis elbow, and osteoarthritis.

6. Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS)

This treatment uses electrical stimulation to decrease pain. Doctors send low-voltage electrical signals to the affected area through electrodes attached to the skin. Researchers aren’t exactly sure how it works. It’s thought that the electricity stimulates nerves, sends signals to the brain, and blocks pain signals. It may also stimulate the release of endorphins, which also help to ease pain. TENS only works on a short-term basis but may be effective for diabetic neuropathy.

Find Strategies for Pain Management Without Opioids at Washburn House

Living with a pain condition can be disabling. However, the relief that opioids offer can come at a high cost. Now that you’re aware of some of the pharmacological and non-pharmacological options for treating pain without opioids, you can make a more informed decision about how to manage your pain. If you’re currently addicted or at risk for opioid addiction, consider seeking treatment at a caring and compassionate facility like Washburn House. Contact us today at 855.298.3104 to learn more about how to manage pain without opioids.

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