By Cindy Perlin, LCSW.
Are you a pain patient who has depended on opioids for pain relief, only to have your doctor cut you off or drastically cut your dose? Did your doctor do it abruptly, throwing you into horrific opioid withdrawal? Without offering any other effective pain treatment?
If so, are you feeling angry and betrayed? Are you taking to your bed because of the increased pain? Are you thinking about suicide? Thinking about or actually going to the street to buy heroin for relief?
While your feelings are understandable and the increased pain is real, the actions you take in response to them can lead to greater harm or to the path of healing. Staying in bed and stewing in your anger and grief about the loss can make your pain worse and your depression deepen. Turning to the streets to buy products of unknown origin and purity can kill you.
I think everyone can understand the risks of buying street drugs, though sometimes desperation drives actions. Most are probably unaware of the dangers of taking to your bed and fuming, so I’ll explain.
Most pain, whether it’s back or neck pain diagnosed as disc disease, arthritis, fibromyalgia or headaches, is actually muscle generated. Stiff, inflexible, weak muscles, muscle injuries called trigger points, and muscle imbalances generate most pain. Joints need to move enough to be lubricated and weak or imbalanced muscles don’t properly support joints and increase pain from joint disease. Because of all of this, staying in bed most of the time increases pain. You can lower your pain levels with movement, whether it’s walking, gentle stretching, range of motion or strengthening exercises, swimming or any other exercise that you are able to do.
Build up exercise gradually. When I injured my back 40 years ago, the conventional medical wisdom was to rest. I stayed in bed six weeks and felt even worse. Then a more astute doctor told that was the worst thing I could do and to get back to living my life the best I could. I was so weak from staying in bed so long that I couldn’t manage a walk around the block. An exercise program for people with bad backs at the YMCA helped me get moving again. I subsequently took up swimming, which has been a lifesaver for me.
Unprocessed anger and grief also increase pain, according to numerous studies. We hold onto our feelings, which are the movement of energy through our bodies, with our muscles, which tire and end up in pain. The origin of anger is fear and it is part of the fight or flight response. Anger, if channeled properly, gives us the energy we need to save ourselves in times of danger.
Don’t just lie there, do something! Take action to take charge of your situation and you will feel better. Call someone and ask for help. Get on the internet and research alternative treatments, then try the ones that are accessible and affordable. Write your congressman to complain about the CDC and the DEA. Have a good cry because it helps your body get rid of stress hormones. Sign a petition to require insurance companies to pay for alternative pain treatments.
When you mobilize instead of agonize, you will feel much better physically and mentally. Try it.
The author, Cindy Perlin, is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and chronic pain survivor. She’s the author of The Truth About Chronic Pain Treatments: The Best and Worst Strategies for Becoming Pain Free and the creator of the Alternative Pain Treatment Directory.