Pain relief treatment is in constant demand, and even though we are more aware of the addictive qualities of opioid medicine, we don’t always consider other options.
If you are wary of prescription painkillers or are recovering from an opioid addiction, you might want to consider some alternative pain relief methods.
There are many ways to assuage and cope with pain, so whatever method you choose should reflect your individual situation, medical history and personal beliefs. It is true that opioid painkillers are beneficial in some cases, specifically for temporary pain, cancer treatment, palliative care and when the medicine is extended-release (APTA).
For all other scenarios, especially for chronic pain, the Centers for Disease Control recently published opioid prescription guidelines, which advise doctors to prescribe alternative pain relief methods or nonopioid medications.
There are two main categories of alternatives to opioid painkillers: practices and medicines.
- Physical Therapy: The CDC specifically recommends physical therapy for pain treatment, especially in situations involving the lower back, hips, knees and fibromyalgia. The American Physical Therapy Association started the #ChoosePT campaign in response to the CDC’s guidelines, stating that “physical therapists treat pain through movement while partnering with patients to improve or maintain their mobility and quality of life,” as opposed to prescribing opioid medications that only relieve pain (APTA).
- Acupuncture: Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese practice that is focused on manipulating and stimulating specific pressure points in the body. Research proves acupuncture to be a valid contender for treating chronic pain (especially for the back and neck).
- Chiropractic: Chiropractic is a practice that is focused on the spine’s relationship with the rest of the body, and how spine manipulation affects that relationship (NCCIH). Chiropractic has been proven to alleviate pain, especially for patients dealing with back, neck, shoulder, hand and foot pain.
- Exercise: Yoga, Qigong, biking, zumba, walking! Exercise can release the body’s natural endorphins and alleviate stress. This endorphin stimulation “results in a jolt of dopamine to the brain, which binds to the opioid receptors in exactly the same way as morphine or any other opioid pain medication”.
- Nonopioid Medications: There are effective painkiller medications that do not use opiates, such as Acetaminophen, Ibuprofen, Serotonin and Norepinephrine (Pharmacy Times).
- Topical Medications: Topical medications are a safer and still competent pain relief method for knee and hand osteoarthritis and strains. They can be applied via gel, solution or patch; for example, the capsaicin cream has been proven to reduce arthritis pain by “temporarily desensitizing skin nerve receptors”.
- Medication with Caffeine: Many painkiller medications have been proven to be more effective with caffeine. According to an article from Everyday Health, caffeine stimulates the painkiller’s entrance into the bloodstream and it “can exert a mood-boosting effect that can ease pain.”
- Medical Marijuana: While there has been some controversy over medical marijuana, there has also been a substantial amount of evidence in support of its effective pain relief. An article from Safer Lock explains that “medical marijuana appears to be a mostly safe treatment for chronic pain, without an increased risk of side effects. A study found that medical marijuana had a better safety profile when compared to opioids for long-term chronic pain.”
- Herbal Medications: There are many natural herbs, roots and minerals that have been used for pain relief for decades. Depending on what it is, patients can drink, eat, or topically use these medications. Common herbal pain relief and anti-inflammatory options are capsaicin, turmeric, MSM, ginger, borage seed oil and boswellia.
If you are being prescribed opioid medications and are wanting a safer alternative, consider these alternative options and discuss them with your doctor. A combination of pain relief methods has been found to be most effective.
It is important to always remember that you do have options, and that medical practice calls for participation from both patient and doctor. If you have concerns about or a history of opioid abuse, speak up! Pain is a serious issue, but addiction can be deadly. Be careful not to prioritize pain relief over the possibility of addiction.