Addiction to opioids has become an epidemic in America. An estimated 115 people die every day from opioid overdose. Another 1,000 Americans get treatment in hospitals daily for misusing their prescription opioids.
Lower back pain affects 26 million people and is one of the most common reasons for opioid use that too often leads to addiction. The consensus is that opioids offer quick relief. But with such high statistics of misuse and abuse of the medication, it’s often best to try opioid alternatives first. Your doctors at the Southeastern Spine Institute (SSI) are dedicated to your overall health; they’re always seeking opioid alternatives when it’s appropriate.
Chronic Pain and the Dependence on Opioids
Being in constant pain can ruin your life. You can’t enjoy the life you want to live. Chronic pain, defined as pain that lasts unabated for more than three months, often starts because of an injury, like a pulled muscle, or certain diseases, such as degenerative disc disease.
The areas most affected by chronic pain besides your back are your head, face, neck, arms, shoulders, hips and legs. Acute pain usually disappears after a few weeks; however, chronic pain can last for years. When over-the-counter medications like aspirin and ibuprofen don’t work, you may be tempted to start taking opioids, but if you do, you may eventually develop a dependence on the drug.
How Opioid Abuse Starts
Opioids bind with certain chemicals in your body to numb the pain receptors in your brain, giving instant relief. But this relief is short-lived, leading many people to reach out for the next pill sooner than prescribed. Dependence on opioids takes just four to six weeks to develop, but the mental craving for the drug can last a lifetime.
There are instances, such as after surgery, when you may need to take opioids for the acute pain. Whenever you’re prescribed opioids, it’s imperative that you follow usage directions carefully. In addition to weaning yourself off the drugs when you’re ready, your SSI team also recommends lifestyle changes to help you heal faster.
Lifestyle Changes as Opioid Alternatives
Chronic pain can disrupt your sleep. Studies by the Sleep Foundation found that 42 million Americans claim pain is the main cause behind their sleep problems. Activities such as yoga, Tai Chi, meditation, Pilates, acupuncture and aqua therapy are great non-medical opioid alternatives.
Physical therapy and massage also work especially well when you have chronic lower back and leg pain. Talk with your SSI spine physician and physical therapist about different massage techniques and available physical therapy practices that may work for you.
Medical Treatment without Opioids
Opioid alternatives work just as well as these medications. Your doctor first pinpoints the exact cause of your pain after a thorough medical checkup. Treatment can be either surgical or non-surgical, depending on the area of your pain and how long you’ve been suffering.
Some of the non-opioid treatments that are available at SSI for chronic pain include:
- Nerve blocks
- Epidural injections
- Pain pumps
- Stem cell therapy
- Spinal cord stimulation
- Electrothermal therapy
- Radiofrequency treatment
- Electrical signals
With the right course of treatment, you can find relief from chronic pain. Check with a pain management specialist like SSI to benefit from the opioid alternatives available. Get out of pain without risking addiction!