Opiate-based drugs continue to be the pain management treatment of choice after surgery, which is how so many people become addicted. Experts report that more than 80 percent of opioid addictions begin as a painkiller prescription.1
One of the solutions to avoiding addiction may be to take a multi-disciplinary approach to managing pain. Instead of relying strictly on pharmaceuticals to alleviate pain, many medical practioners are exploring a combination of solutions. By making stronger use of non-drug alternatives for pain, patients not only reduce the risk of addiction but also benefit from greater cost-savings — not to mention potentially better overall health.
The following are some of the non-pharmaceutical alternatives that can be utilized for pain management:2
- Intermittent cold and heat — a cold compress applied soon after an injury can help relieve pain, decrease inflammation and muscle spasms; a heat compress relaxes musc
- Exercise — physical activity, despite some pain, can help prevent muscles and joints from getting stiff and help manage pain for many conditions, including low back pain, arthritis and fibromyalgia.
- Weight loss — excess weight can put stress on the body and increase certain pain points.
- Physical therapy (PT) — can help to restore or maintain the ability to move and walk
- Occupational therapy (OT) — can help a patient’s ability to perform activities of daily living, such as dressing, bathing and eating
- Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) — this technique employs a very mild electrical current to block pain signals going from the body to the brain
- Ultrasound therapy — directs sound waves into tissue, which may improve blood circulation, decrease inflammation and promote healing
- Biofeedback — a machine-assisted treatment that teaches patients how to take control of their own body responses, including pain
- Therapeutic massage — relaxes painful muscles, tendons and joints, potentially impeding pain messages to and from the brain
- Chiropractic — can help correct the body’s alignment to relieve pain and improve function
- Acupuncture — helps relieve pain by releasing endorphins, the body’s natural painkilling chemicals
- Support equipment — pain-alleviating devices include splints, braces, canes, crutches, walkers and shoe orthotics
1 Lawrence Iteld. U.S. News & World Report. Dec. 15, 2017. “Taking a Team Approach to Acute Pain Management.” https://health.usnews.com/health-care/for-better/articles/2017-12-15/taking-a-team-approach-to-acute-pain-management. Accessed Feb. 8, 2018.
2 Harvard Medical School. September 2016. “Non-opioid options for managing chronic pain.” https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/non-opioid-options-for-managing-chronic-pain. Accessed Feb. 8, 2018.