Federal health officials agree that our nation is suffering from a prescription drug epidemic, and they want the American medical community to stop treating common ailments with highly addictive painkillers. The CDC says that nearly all opiate painkillers that physicians prescribe, such as OxyContin, Percocet and Vicodin, are “just as addictive as heroin.” And pill abuse often leads to more dangerous drugs such as heroin and fentanyl.
But what if you have arthritis, migraines, back problems or chronic pain from an injury? What can you do to relieve your pain while avoiding dangerous, addictive drugs?
Experts from the CDC and other pain treatment researchers recommend the following four alternatives:
- Non-addictive but less-potent pain relief medications such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin), or naproxen (Aleve). There are prescription-strength options if over-the-counter dosages are ineffective
- Therapeutic exercise regimens. A tremendous amount of research has shown that gentle exercise, such as tai chi or yoga, can improve functionality and mobility in people with many kinds of chronic pain, such as arthritis and fibromyalgia.
- Behavioral therapy can help people with chronic pain identify and develop skills to change their thoughts and behaviors about that pain. By changing their awareness of their condition and developing better coping skills, they can feel better.
- Injections such as nerve, epidural, trigger point, and radiofrequency can work to combat regional or local pain in people suffering from arthritis, acute injuries and muscle pain, myofascial pain syndrome, and headaches. Steroids and certain other drugs can also be administered through injections.
Other alternatives to discuss with your doctor include:
- Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors are a class of antidepressant drugs that are also used to treat nerve pain, such as diabetic neuropathy, and muscular and skeletal pain. Certain SNRIs can also be used to treat fibromyalgia. And anti-depressants that are also approved for anxiety can help chronic-pain sufferers to sleep.
- Corticosteroids (steroids) inhibit injured nerves, but they are a short-term treatment.
- Topical pain relief creams like Lidocaine and capsicin can treat localized pain, although they only work for pain in one area, not the total body.
- Neurostimulation is an FDA-approved acute treatment for back, neck, arm, or leg pain. It uses implanted electrodes to interrupt nerve signals and provide pain relief.
- Massage, acupuncture, acupressure, spinal manipulation and other alternative therapies can be effective, safe, and side-effect free. While there is not a lot of scientific evidence proving their effectiveness, many people swear by these treatments.
It may take a combination of treatments to help patients with chronic pain, but in the long run, the risks and side effects are much fewer if they exist at all. Think of chronic pain as a complex disease like heart disease or diabetes, which also need to be managed with a combination of lifestyle changes and other treatments. Rather than relying upon addictive pills, patients can work with their doctors to find the healthiest long-term plan that will work for them.
If you or someone you know has a substance use disorder and would like help, please call our HOPE line today. (855) 969-HOPE.