If you’ve ever suffered from any type of chronic pain, you are very
familiar with the absolute havoc it can wreak on your day-to-day life.
Whether the pain is just stubbornly inconvenient or totally incapacitating,
it can suck the joy out of the simple tasks of daily living and leave
you begging for anything to take the pain away. Up until recently, opioid
painkiller medications have been the most commonly sought after treatment
for this type of pain. Why? Well, they’re accessible, affordable
(sometimes even completely covered by insurance) and offer an immediate
fix; three convincing facts that are hard to argue with. But, we need
to take a closer look at what these medications are actually doing
for us, and
Remember, pain-relieving narcotics are not diving into the root cause of
the pain and treating the underlying condition, but merely masking the
painful symptoms associated with the condition (the pain). Now, if you
are a chronic pain sufferer, this may seem like the best answer, due to
the desperation to rid your body of the constant suffering. But does the
benefit really outweigh the risk? Though opioids do mask the pain, they
bring with them a plethora of other potential problems, largely due to
the effect they have on the brain. The sedating effect of opioids may
cause the person taking them to become apathetic towards family and friends,
and unmotivated to work or take care of themselves. The biggest hurdle
to date in the opioid race, however, is addiction. Once the body becomes
physiologically dependent on the medication, and requires a higher dosage
to mask the pain, it paves the road for the national epidemic of overdose
deaths, addiction and poor clinical outcomes.
Fortunately, there are other options. Recent advances in medicine have shown success in treating chronic pain
with alternative treatment methods. In fact, a Mayo Clinic study found
that patients who were weaned off opioids and adopted a treatment program
focusing on drug alternatives, experienced
less pain than while on opioids and also significantly improved in daily function.
The pain management techniques in use today vary based on the type of
pain, the cause, and the severity. Some of the most popular alternative
treatment methods with the highest success rates are exercise, acupuncture,
physical therapy, chiropractic therapy, and cognitive behavioral therapy.
neuromodulation through the use of focused cold therapies (cryoablation), electrical stimulation, radio frequency and
transcranial magnetic stimulation are effective neurological approaches to managing or eliminating pain.
Stress reduction techniques such as yoga or music therapy are also highly
regarded for the treatment of chronic pain. The build-up of extreme stress
that stems from experiencing constant pain can push us over the edge physically
and emotionally, which makes stress reduction crucial in pain management.
One of the brightest highlights of these alternative options is that no
matter how often they are used, they pose no negative harm to the body,
in stark comparison to the potentially-disabling effects of opioids.
Though it can seem easy for the doctor of a chronic pain sufferer to just
write out an order for narcotics on a prescription pad and have the patient
on their way to relief, this is not a sustainable approach. The pain will
be relieved for a short time, but without any resolution of the problem
that is causing it in the first place. It’s important to note, however,
that some patients may still benefit from a combination of acute pain
killers and long-term therapy. For each individual that experiences chronic
pain, there will be a different regimen of treatments that holds the answers
to relief. It is a skilled neurologist who helps determine and educate
patients on exactly what that regimen is and why. Considering different
options, and figuring out exactly what works for YOU is the first step
forward towards a pain-free life.