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Chronic Pain Treatment and Opiods

Apr 30, 2018 by Comfort Keepers Newark, DE

We also have another drug “crisis” in the United States: rise of opioids getting into the wrong hands, causing abundant addictions and overdoses.

Opioids and Chronic Pain Treatment

Simply put, an opioid is a strong painkiller prescribed to patients with chronic pain or those recovering from surgery. They get their name from the word “opium,” as the chemical makeup of these drugs is very similar to it. These drugs bind to one of the three opioid receptors in our bodies to help alleviate pain, among other effects.

While it has been proven for decades to help those needing relief from intense pains, there can be many cons to taking these drugs long-term.

Depending on your dosage and how long you’ve been on an opioid, some side effects you may experience are:

  • Gastrointestinal issues, including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Compromised immunity
  • More likely to become depressed
  • Decreased production of cortisol (a hormone that helps control metabolism, blood sugar levels, and other things)
  • Possibly a slightly increased risk of cancer

Another problem with opioids is the seemingly lax nature of prescribing them. One doctor mentioned that it’s “standard procedure” to prescribe 30 days of an opioid to a patient post-surgery, regardless of what their surgery was. For something that may only hurt for a few days, this is way too much medicine.

Because of these and other issues with these drugs, people are asking, why aren’t other methods being used more? This question is especially being asked now that non-opioids are shown to be effective for treating chronic pain, too. Here are some alternatives to opioids.

Over-the-Counter Medicines

It turns out painkillers that you can pick up at your local grocery store, such as acetaminophen (or if you prefer brand names, Tylenol) are very effective in treating certain forms of chronic pain, such as arthritis. They have fewer side effects when used long-term than opioids.

Yet, despite these drugs being cheaper, less addicting and yet still effective, many doctors still prescribe opioids right away because they claim it’s an issue of access. What if the over-the-counter stuff doesn’t work and you need pain relief now? Prescribing opioids has become the default.

Physical Therapy

This form of treatment is non-invasive, non-addicting and an incredibly natural yet effective way to reduce many kinds of pain.

The problem here lies in the fact that insurance does not cover this therapy as much as prescription drugs.

Acupuncture

There’s still much research to be done on acupuncture’s efficacy, though it has been shown to help patients with lower back and knee arthritis pain.

Just as with physical therapy, it too is not commonly covered by insurance as much.

In Summary:

To sum all of this up, the right form of treatment for your pain depends on your individual situation. Each body reacts different to different drugs or therapies; you won’t really know until you try them.

Out of all of these forms of treatment, typically only 20 to 30 percent of patients feel total pain relief. Therefore, no matter what therapy you pick, you’ve got the same odds at reducing your pain!

Just because this “opioid crisis” is on our hands does not mean that opioids are always bad. They work for many people, and have been their saving grace from torturous pain.

On the other hand, these drugs are abused and perhaps prescribed too freely. Researchers and the medical community all agree that there needs to be more research done and reform in terms of opioid prescribing and the efficacy of alternative forms of treatment.

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