Q. Are there ways to deal with pain without the use of addictive drugs?
Chronic pain is a major problem for millions of Americans. Many billions of dollars are lost every year to employee leave, insurance, disability payments and other care costs.
If we were addicted to pain medications, two things most likely happened: as we built tolerance to the drugs we needed more and more to get relief, and continued use made us unable to stop. The amount of drugs we took is not an issue. Prolonged use of opioid drugs eventually and inevitably results in addiction. Switching narcotic drugs didn’t help the problem, because as far as our bodies are concerned, one opioid drug is pretty much the same as the next.
So now we want to get clean, and we’re terrified of the prospect. Not only are we worried about the issues surrounding detox from drugs, but (perhaps even more) about the management of our pain after we have them out of our systems. It is nowhere nearly as well known as it should be, but there are a wide variety of alternatives to opioid drugs for management of chronic pain. Although we may have used some of these techniques for short-term relief, a long-term regimen conducted by professionals can have results that we never imagined.
Non-narcotic pain management tools include:
- Physical Therapy: Yes, we had it before, but the presence of the drugs is likely to have prevented our obtaining the results we needed. It is probably the most important of all, because conditioning the rest of our bodies to support the weak areas relieves much of the pressure causing the pain.
- Heat or Ice Therapy
- Relaxation Techniques: There are a variety of these. A professional can help you find the right one for you.
- Biofeedback: a specialized form of relaxation that can help you relax the area that is the source of pain.
- Massage Therapy
- Alternative Medicine: Chiropractic, acupuncture and accupressure, reflexology, and similar methods of relieving stresses on the body
- Proper Diet: A healthy body will enable us to better perform other therapies, and will assist the body in building strength and muscle balance. If we are overweight, this is of particular importance.
- Psychological and Psychiatric Support: Any program specializing in addiction and chronic pain will have appropriate counselors and psychiatrists to aid in pain management.
- Medications: There are a variety of non-narcotic medications that, in combination with a good program of treatment, can support our pain relief.
- Occupational Therapy and Vocational Guidance: Wouldn’t it be great to be able to work again? With the aid of professionals, this may be possible.
- Setting Goals: Once we have arrived at a level of acceptance of our pain, it is imperative that we begin setting specific goals that, once reached, give us hope and raise our self-esteem.
- Family Therapy: Our family is our first line of support. It’s imperative that they understand not only our pain reduction program, but also our addiction.
As you can see, there are many options. We may have tried some, but with the drugs out of our system it’s a whole new ballgame. For more detailed information about chronic pain, please go here.