Alternatives to Opiates to Help Manage Chronic Pain

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Even with opiate abuse now at epidemic proportions, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other leading health organizations, nearly 40 percent of the population still takes painkillers for legitimate reasons. While some patients do benefit from such medications when taken properly, concerns over addiction have both doctors and patients exploring alternative options to opiates to manage chronic pain.
Exercise Specific to Abilities
While it may seem counterproductive to exercise with chronic pain, the right form of exercise can strengthen muscles and joints enough to provide more support while making daily movements. The good thing about exercise is that it can be tailored to a patient’s abilities and modified as endurance and strength improves. Forms of exercise that may be appropriate for patients with chronic pain include:

  • Core strengthening exercises
  • Water aerobics and pool therapy
  • Yoga and Pilates
  • Low-impact aerobics

The purpose of electrotherapy is to minimize discomfort by delivering mild electrical impulses to the affected area. The electricity interferes with how signals are sent by nerves to the brain, which alters the perception of pain. Common forms of electrotherapy include TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) units, interferential (IF) stimulation, and HVGPS (high voltage pulsed galvanic stimulation). The treatment typically involves electrodes, an implantable unit, and a handheld device that patients can use to control the level of stimulation. Electrotherapy may ease chronic pain due to:

Injections relieve pain by delivering a local anesthetic and some type of anti-inflammatory medication (usually a steroid) directly to the affected area. The relief is temporary since injections do not actually treat the source of pain. However, the relief experienced often allows patients to play more of an active role in physical therapy, which may further ease discomfort as strength, stability, and range of motion improve.
Some chronic pain sufferers may experience meaningful results by acknowledging their present moment and accepting their feelings. Referred to as mindfulness, it’s an approach to pain perception that changes a patient’s way of thinking about their discomfort enough to bring about relief. A study involving subjects with chronic back pain conducted over several months showed that individuals who underwent mindfulness treatments reported greater improvements than subjects who did not use the technique.
For times when medication is needed to ease chronic pain, patients may benefit from non-opiate drugs such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), acetaminophen, anticonvulsants, muscle relaxants, and antidepressants. Chiropractic adjustments and acupuncture can may also help some patients minimize their discomfort.

Posted on behalf of Allied Pain & Spine Institute