When you experience chronic pain, you can feel trapped in prescription after prescription for opioid pain medications. While these drugs can help relieve aches and pains, they also come with a myriad of side effects — not to mention the risk of becoming addicted. Fortunately, opioid medication isn’t the only solution for chronic pain. What are your other choices, and are there any risks for non-opioid pain treatment options?
What are Opioids?
Also called narcotics, opioids are a type of pain management drug that is commonly used post-surgery. It’s also been used for chronic pain — such as arthritis. They work by boosting certain brain chemicals that block pain, slowing your breathing, and helping calm you down. Some legal opioids include:
Risks of Opioids
While opioids can be helpful for relieving pain, they come with many risks — including addiction, side effects, and death. Opioids are addictive due to their ability to release feel-good chemicals. People feel better when they take them and begin to depend on them for relieving any pain or discomfort. They also produce side effects such as drowsiness, mental fog, nausea, and constipation.
But, those side effects are nothing compared to how easily it can be to overdose on opioids. Because the drug helps slow your breathing to calm you down, it can quickly lead to an overdose. Common signs that someone on opioids is experiencing an overdose include:
- Pale face or clammy to the touch
- Body is limp
- Fingernails or lips have a purple or blue color
- Vomiting or gurgling noises
- Can’t be awakened or inability to speak
- Breathing or heartbeat slows or stops
What are some non-opioid treatment options?
Over-the-counter medication containing the active ingredient acetaminophen can help provide relief for pain caused by tissue damage — including back pain and osteoarthritis. Unlike nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID), medications with acetaminophen are “first-line” pain relievers and should be layered with other options.
While these medications provide some relief, they are nowhere near as effective as opioids by themselves. That’s why the biggest risk with these medications is that if too much of acetaminophen is taken, it can cause liver damage — especially to those who drink heavily or already have liver disease.
Another non-opioid medication options are NSAIDs — such as ibuprofen. You can receive many options over-the-counter or through a prescription. They are mostly used for soft tissue injuries — including strains, sprains, and headaches — but can also be used for arthritis. NSAIDs are great for mild to moderate pain. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can be taken with acetaminophen for additional pain relief, but the more painkillers you take, the more your risk of organ damage increases — including other side effects.
Orthopedic Pain Alternatives
While drugs and medications can help mask the pain, orthopedic alternatives like physical therapy and surgery may be more effective for targeting the source. A physical therapist or physician creates a specific treatment plan to address your pain and helps improve your ability to function. These treatment plans may include stretching routines, ultrasounds, or even minimally invasive surgery.
By visiting an orthopedic doctor, you may find out that surgery can be performed to treat your discomfort and correct abnormalities — including those causing you pain. The type of surgery required is based on your specific needs, and each comes with their own risks. You should talk to your orthopedic physician about these options before making any decisions.
Another alternative is interventional pain management. This method uses minimally-invasive techniques and procedures to identify and treat the root cause of your pain. An interventional pain management physician diagnoses and uses advanced techniques to create a custom treatment plan with the goal of decreasing or eliminating your pain — so you can get back to doing the things you love.
In addition to seeing an orthopedic doctor, there are things you can do at home or at work to help relieve pain — especially for arthritis in the hands. If you’re someone who works in an office setting, using a cushion under a keyboard to support your wrists can help relieve wrist or hand pain from typing. Other tips to prevent back, wrist, or hand pain from typing include:
- Adjusting your desk height so that your monitor is in line with your eyes
- Setting your seat position so that your legs sit comfortably on the floor at about a 90-degree angle
- Sitting in a chair that provides lumbar support to help promote proper posture
- Taking frequent breaks to stretch
Similar to orthopedic alternatives, home remedies carry little risk and can easily be incorporated into your lifestyle. By pairing home remedies with orthopedic and non-opioid medicine, you can maximize your pain relief.
Request an Appointment at The Orthopedic Clinic Today
At The Orthopedic Clinic, we want you to live your life in full motion. If you suffer from chronic pain and it’s making your life uncomfortable, let us help you. We’ll tailor a treatment plan that’s best for your lifestyle and get you back to doing the things you love. With six convenient locations, we provide quality orthopedic care and interventional pain management services to patients in Daytona Beach, Ormond Beach, Port Orange, Palm Coast, and New Smyrna Beach.
Call us at (386) 255-4596 to schedule an appointment.