The Problem with Opioids (+ 6 Strategies for Natural Pain Relief)

The Problem with Opioids (+ 6 Strategies for Natural Pain Relief)

Do you wish your chronic pain would go away?

Doctors now realize that we haven’t done a good job treating people with chronic pain. Many of the painkillers doctors prescribe – and that you’ve likely been treated with – are risky and not very effective. The issue is not a lack of good drugs but the problems with all drugs if used for the long term.

Our bodies have their own strategies to fight pain. Instead of just taking pills, we need to help our bodies use these strategies. Many time-proven methods like massage, chiropractic treatment and yoga reduce our pain without the deadly risk of painkillers. Even our diet can be a useful tool to fight pain.

The Problem with Painkillers

When you talk to your doctor about chronic pain, they will often send you home with a painkiller. NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen and many others) and acetaminophen are two common forms of painkillers.  Did you know that these drugs will send around 80,000 people to the emergency room each year? In addition, NSAIDs kill about 16,500 people in the USA each year?

Opioids are very powerful painkillers that work well for acute pain like a broken bone or surgery. They reduce the intensity of pain signals reaching the brain. Some common opioids are Vicodin (hydrocodone), OxyContin and Percocet (oxycodone), and Kadian and Avinza (morphine).

Doctors never used to prescribe opioids for chronic pain. We recognized that opioids were too dangerous to use over the long term. Patients who take opioids for long periods develop a tolerance to them and require higher and higher doses for the same pain relief. Higher doses mean higher risk. And in the long run, most patients are still in pain.

Just recently, doctors were told that opioids were safe for chronic pain patients. Many more opioids were prescribed. The results were disastrous.

Over the last ten years, four times more women and two times more men have died from opioid painkillers prescribed by their doctors. Here’s the largest problem with opioids: there is little proof they will relieve our pain in the long term. In fact, opioids may cause personality changes, interfere with sleep, disrupt your sex hormones, interfere with your breathing, and give you a new kind of nerve pain called hyperalgesia. Opioids are also dangerously addictive and are causing a painkiller epidemic in the US.

Strategies for Natural Pain Relief without Side Effects

You don’t have to just live with chronic pain. It is important to try to understand more about your pain, what makes it better and what makes it worse. Here’s how to make your pain more manageable.

Don’t reach just for your painkillers. Try the following treatments instead.

I’ve included below a list of different treatment methods that have been proven over time to reduce pain without the risk of drugs. We know these methods work – humans have used them for thousands of years. What’s more is that on average, these treatment methods cost less than taking only painkillers.

1. Nutrition

  • Pay attention to your diet: remember, you change your body chemistry every time you eat. An anti-inflammatory diet reduces your body-wide inflammation and pain while improving the healing process.
  • For joint pain in the back, neck, hips, knees and feet, weight loss can sometimes reduce pain by reducing the stress on joints and improving your posture.
  • Identify food sensitivities that cause inflammation.
  • Learn to shop for and prepare healthy meals. In North America we rely on packaged foods for most of our calories (I can’t say “most of our nutrition” – there are more chemicals in these products than nutrients!)
  • Take Michael Pollan’s advice: Eat food. Mostly vegetables. Not too much.

2. Mind-body

  • Recognize the emotional and social consequences of pain.
  • Participate in support groups and social support.
  • Learn to meditate and use guided imagery recordings for relaxation. I also reco Reiki, music therapy.
  • Psychological therapies like cognitive Behavioral Therapy.
  • Take up hobbies that occupy your attention: they distract you as well as give you pleasure.
  • Spend time in nature and engage in other pleasurable or personally meaningful activities.
  • Play with your pet. We now have the science to prove that pets balance our stress system.
  • Hug someone. Physical closeness, hugs, and intimacy also reduce our stress response.
  • Give yourself and your partner a massage.

3. Physical therapies

  • Acupuncture
  • Chiropractic and osteopathic manipulation
  • Massage therapy, hydrotherapy, and aromatherapy
  • Physical therapy
  • Trigger point therapy
  • Occupational therapy

4. Movement-based therapies

  • Yoga, dance, exercise, aquatic therapy
  • Tai chi and qi gong
  • Movement education and postural awareness such as Alexander Technique, Feldenkrais, Egoscue Method, and Trager

5. Relaxation therapies

  • Meditation, guided imagery, Reiki, music therapy
  • Psychological therapies

6. Creative arts therapies

  • Art, drama, dance, music and poetry therapy

Chew on this

Congratulations on taking your first step to making your chronic pain more manageable.

We should realize that no pill will make our chronic pain disappear instantly or completely. Pain is intricately related to our lifestyle – the healthier we live and eat, the less pain we’ll have. Live well and start your new year feeling better and stronger.

Read the complete Policy Brief: Never Only Opioids

2017-06-20T15:11:04+00:00 February 5th, 2015|Pain Management|

About the Author:

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For over 20 years Dr. Tick has dedicated herself to researching evidence-based holistic treatments for pain and inflammation. A multiple-book author, including the highly acclaimed Holistic Pain Relief - An In-Depth Guide to Managing Chronic Pain, Dr. Tick empowers her patients to live free of pain and full of life. She is the first holder of the prestigious Gunn-Loke Endowed Professorship of Integrative Pain Medicine at the University of Washington and a Clinical Associate Professor at the University of Washington in the departments of Family Medicine and Anesthesiology & Pain Medicine.

One Comment

  1. Tiz November 30, 2016 at 3:48 pm - Reply

    This is wonderful.

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