In our last blog, opioids were equated to being a bandage for pain management. Opioids cover up the underlying cause of pain for a short period and when the bandage falls off, the pain is still there. Today, we are removing that bandage and taking a look at alternative pain management options. Alternative or complementary pain-fighting strategies can be safely used to treat and reduce pain without the risks associated with opioids. Before trying any pain management strategies, speak with your health care provider about your pain. They may be able to identify underlying causes of your pain and they will be able to recommend specific pain-fighting strategies that will be safe for you.
According to an article in Prevention magazine, the following options are considered amongst various effective pain-fighting interventions (Beil, 2013):
- GABA agonists
- Physical therapy
- Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS)
- Cognitive behavioral therapy
- Chiropractic care
Non-addictive medications, like anti-depressants, are helpful in reducing pain while the sufferer engages in activities like physical therapy, chiropractic care, and relaxation techniques.
“Nursing is a physically demanding job. I suffered a bulging disc moving patients and the pain was so unbearable that I could not even walk. I knew enough to stay away from opioids and talked to my doctor about other options for treatment. We worked together and came up with a safe plan for treating my pain. Cymbalta, an anti-depressant, and chiropractic care worked to not only relieve my pain – but to also repair the bulging disc. I recommend that all patients suffering with pain speak with their health care provider about alternative pain-fighting strategies.” -Anonymous Nurse
GABA agonists, Gabapentin (Neurontin) being the most widely used, work to relieve the perception of neuropathic pain. “An estimated 20 million people in the United States have some form of peripheral neuropathy, a condition that develops as a result of damage to the peripheral nervous system” (Peripheral neuropathy fact sheet, 2014). Peripheral neuropathy can be caused by injuries and disease processes, the most common being diabetes.
Exercise is responsible for releasing hormones that reduce stress and improve mood. Yoga and water-aerobics can be modified to meet the needs of the most inactive and inflexible pain sufferers. Cognitive behavioral therapy works on changing your thoughts that lead to feelings that lead to behaviors. A trained therapist can work with you to improve how you think about pain and your pain-fighting options, thus leading to the improved behavioral management of pain. Cognitive behavioral therapy has been effective in treating or reducing symptoms for many medical and psychiatric conditions.
Pain is inevitable for most of us, especially as we are tending to live much longer lives. Managing our pain safely is an integral part of living a fulfilling, satisfied life. Working with healthcare providers, fitness trainers and therapists can aid pain sufferers in decreasing the need for dangerous opioids. Instead of applying a bandage to your pain, health care providers can work with cohesively with you to provide healing and improve your quality of life.
by Dera Harvey, MSN, RN
Beil, L. (2013, June 14). 14 Effective Options For Pain Relief: Solutions for chronic pain sufferers. Prevention, p. 1. Retrieved from http://www.prevention.com/health/health-concerns/best-pain-relievers
Peripheral neuropathy fact sheet. (2014, December). Retrieved from National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke: https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/Patient-Caregiver-Education/Fact-Sheets/Peripheral-Neuropathy-Fact-Sheet