By Jackie Waters
If you are a sufferer of chronic pain, you are not alone. Roughly 11% of Americans have suffered or are suffering from chronic pain and many were prescribed opioids to manage it. Opioids remain the go-to method for managing chronic pain despite its many side effects. Of course, these painkillers can also be used properly and effectively to manage your symptoms. If you are a person with chronic pain, there are some things you need to know about pain management and opioids.
Opioids are Risky But Can Be Effective for Some
One of the main problems experienced by people with chronic pain is the risk of addiction. As opioids are the most common drug used for pain management, many people are faced with a potential addiction.
Those with risk factors for addiction should beware of using opioids as long-term pain management. If you have a family history of addiction or mental illness, you may want to consider alternative treatment. If you do not have a family history of addiction or mental illness and you use opioids properly, they can be a very effective way to cope with your chronic pain.
There is a Difference Between Short-Term and Long-Term Pain Management
Opioids are often used for pain regardless of the duration of it. However, when opioids are used for chronic pain, the extended use can result in greater risk for addiction as well as increased side effects. Taking opioids for a limited time can be somewhat safer for those with temporary pain, but you may want to reconsider if your pain is chronic.
There are Many Forms of Alternative Pain Management
Most doctors will prescribe some form of an addictive pharmaceutical for chronic pain and, for some, that is a necessary form of pain management. However, you never should feel that drugs are your only option. Chronic pain management can come in many shapes and sizes. Exercises such as swimming and yoga have been shown to be the most effective ways to handle chronic pain but can be difficult to muster when you’re already in pain.
Meditation, on the other hand, is a real-life example of mind over matter. Learning to control your mind and headspace allows you to reduce your pain. Of course, the relaxation that meditation offers also helps ease pain.
Altering your diet is another way you can cope with chronic pain. Many cases of chronic pain are the result of inflammation, and what you eat has a significant impact on inflammation in your body. Some foods can reduce inflammation while others may actually cause inflammation. Sometimes, pain management is just a matter of buying a recipe book. If none of these alternative methods sounds appealing, you may want to consider acupuncture. Studies show this practice also is effective at treating pain.
Physical therapy is another excellent option for treating chronic pain. By employing special exercises, massage, manual therapy, and other methods, physical therapy can help reduce chronic pain, increase mobility, and improve overall functioning of the body.
Chiropractic care can also help ease your chronic pain, and regular treatment may be able to reduce your need for opioids. A specialist will use spinal manipulation, postural exercises, and other therapies to help your body heal itself. Proper chiropractic treatment can even help your day-to-day functioning.
You should also be careful not to overdo it in the course of your daily activities. For example, there may be a task at work that you simply shouldn’t be doing because of your pain. Speak with your boss or manager to see if you can trade responsibilities with another employee so that any tasks that aggravate your chronic pain can be transferred to someone else. In turn, you can take on responsibilities of theirs that are less physical. At home, get help with housekeeping by either asking a friend or family member to do your cleaning or by hiring a housekeeper. You might also get help making modifications around your house that could make your life easier–such as replacing knobs and cabinet pulls with easier-to-grasp options.
Whether opioids are an effective treatment for pain often depends on individual cases. These drugs might work well for your chronic pain, or they may pose too great a risk for you. It is helpful if you research alternative treatments and lifestyle changes regardless of what you’re currently using to manage your pain. In most cases, a meditation course will be more beneficial for your overall health than opioids, even if you feel you aren’t at risk for addiction. So, do your research, try different methods of pain management, and figure out what works best for you and your chronic pain.
Featured photo by LeoNeoBoy
Jackie Waters is a new contributor to National Pain Report. She is a mother of four energetic boys and lives with her family on a three acre hobby farm in Oregon where they grow as much of their own food as possible, focus on sustainability, and practice simplicity. She was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in her mid-20s.