Opioids are not the answer
Millions of men and women suffer from chronic pain. In other words, YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
If you suffer from regular pain that is impacting your daily life, the first step is to find out what is causing the pain. From there, you can find the appropriate treatment.
It is more pertinent now than ever to caution patients against taking opioids.
Doctors in recent years have turned to opioids to treat this kind of pain. In many cases, doctors were being incentivized by manufacturers to prescribe certain drugs. Manufacturers were also misleading doctors and patients about the addiction risk involved in taking these drugs.
Fast forward a few years, and America is suffering from an unprecedented epidemic of opioid abuse. According to CDC estimates, at least 40,000 Americans died in 2016 from opioid abuse.
As the number of deaths from opioid abuse continues to rise, it is vital that doctors discuss alternative treatments for pain. There are certainly cases in which painkillers are necessary, but studies show that lifestyle changes and therapies like yoga and meditation can significantly improve pain, mental state, and depression without the risk of addiction.
Keep reading to learn more about some of the most common conditions that cause chronic pain and how you can find relief without taking opioids.
What is chronic pain?
The word “chronic” refers to something that persists for an extended period of time or consistently occurs. Doctors define “chronic pain” as discomfort that lasts longer than three months.
Unlike acute pain, which occurs suddenly in response to a specific stressor or injury, this pain is difficult to manage because it often resists treatments. Part of the definition of it is that it has a negative impact on a person’s quality of life.
The pain can be caused by a disease or a previous injury. In the elderly, it is often attributed to degenerative conditions such as arthritis. This kind of pain affects 1.5 billion people throughout the world. In the US, it is the most common cause of extended disability.
Chronic pain is not fully understood.
In cases that begin with an injury, such as a pulled or strained muscle, long-lasting pain most likely develops as the result of nerve damage.
This kind of pain can be sharp and burning or dull and aching. It can be steady or random. It can occur in any area of the body. Discomfort can get worse in response to environmental (pressure, humidity, etc.) and psychological factors (such as stress).
Factors that significantly increase your risk of chronic pain:
- Being female
- Being overweight
- Having an injury or surgery
Common causes of chronic pain
Do your symptoms match any of the conditions described below?
Fibromyalgia (FMS) is a musculoskeletal disorder characterized by widespread pain and tenderness in the body. The discomfort caused by fibromyalgia can cause sleep deprivation and depression.
Other symptoms include depression, anxiety, numbness and tingling in extremities, headaches, problems urinating, and painful menstrual cramps. FMS is believed to be caused by severe physical or mental trauma.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is a complex disorder characterized by extreme fatigue that does not improve with rest. Like other conditions on this list, CFS is not fully understood. CFS is thought to be linked to immune system problems, viral infections, and hormonal imbalances.
Symptoms of CFS include sore throat, difficulty concentration, loss of memory, enlarged lymph nodes, muscle and joint pain, headaches, and exhaustion that persists more than 24 hours after exercise.
Chronic Pelvic Pain (CPP) is a condition characterized by pain between the hips and bellybutton. Symptoms include intermittent pain, cramps, a feeling of pressure in the pelvis, pain during sex, pain when using the bathroom, and pain after sitting.
Endometriosis occurs when endometrium tissue grows outside the uterus instead of inside the uterus. Symptoms include severe pain and heavy bleeding during menstruation, pain when using the bathroom, infertility, pain during sex, diarrhea, constipation, fatigue, and nausea.
Endometriosis can cause chronic pelvic pain.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is an intestinal disorder characterized by abdominal pain, cramping, bloating, gas, constipation, diarrhea, and mucus in the stool. In many cases, patients can minimize symptoms by avoiding certain foods.
Interstitial Cystitis (painful bladder syndrome) is a condition characterized by pain and pressure in the bladder and pelvic area. Other symptoms include consistent need to urinate, pain during sex, and very frequent urination (up to 60x per day). Interstitial cystitis can cause chronic pelvic pain.
Lower Back Pain is characterized by dull pain in the lower back. Other symptoms include burning pain, tingling, and muscle spasms in the pelvis, hips, legs, and feet. Pain generally worsens after extended periods of standing or sitting.
Common causes of lower back pain include injuries caused from lifting heavy objects, falling, poor posture, and sports.
Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction (TMJ) gets its name from the temporomandibular joint, which connects your skull to your jawbone. TMJ is characterized by pain in the jaw and surrounding muscles. Most cases are temporary and can be overcome using nonsurgical treatments.
Migraines are debilitating headaches associated with vision changes, sensitivity to light, mood changes, sinus symptoms, neck pain, nausea, cravings, numbness, vertigo, weakness on one side of the body, and trouble sleeping.
Autoimmune diseases including celiac disease, lupus, multiple sclerosis, and rheumatoid arthritis.
The goal of pain management is to enable the patient to resume normal life with minimal pain and improved mobility. Each person’s pain management plan will differ depending on symptoms, lifestyle, and underlying health conditions.
Drugs commonly used to treat chronic pain include:
- Adjuvant analgesics, including anticonvulsants and antidepressants
- OTC pain relievers such as NSAIDs (Ibuprofen, Aspirin) and acetaminophen (Tylenol)
- Opioids, including codeine, morphine, and hydrocodone
Medical procedures used to treat chronic pain include:
- Nerve block
- Electrical stimulation
In many cases, relying on drugs is a bad idea when you’re looking at pain management that will last for years – potentially for your whole life. Other methods used to treat pain include pet therapy, yoga, Tai Chi, physical therapy, psychotherapy, art/music therapy, massage, meditation, and mindfulness training.
This kind of pain is known to exacerbate stress, so building the skills to help manage stress is essential in managing physical pain. Studies show that lifestyle remedies can be very effective, especially when patients are diligent, patient, and have a willingness to heal.
Good habits for pain management include:
- Continue to socialize and take part in activities you enjoy, even if it is uncomfortable
- Improve nutrition
- Seek support from friends and family
- Get enough sleep
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Exercise, but do not punish the body
- Avoid caffeine
- Stop smoking
- Minimize stress
- Make time for yourself
Alter your mindset (tips on healing muscle pain and tension)
In many cases, patients must alter the way they view pain before they can begin the road to recovery.
The following thoughts and behaviors can impede the healing process:
- Accepting the fact that you are “broken”
- Viewing the pain as a problem that needs to be “fixed”
- Expecting quick results
- Focusing all efforts on the body part that hurts while ignoring the rest of your body
Instead, take time to meditate on the problem without labeling or judging things as “good” or “bad.” Spend time exploring your body and mind, and remember that every day is a new opportunity to grow and improve.
Breathe deeply and relax as much as possible.