3 Alternatives to Opioid Use for Chronic Pain
By Dr. Molly Casey
The reach of chronic pain that has led to America’s opioid addiction cannot be understated. More Americans suffer from chronic pain than heart disease, cancer and diabetes combined, according to the National Institutes of Health. Chronic pain, defined as any pain that lasts for more than three months, is the most common cause of long-term disability and cited as the most common reason Americans utilize the healthcare system. One of the most common treatments for chronic pain in the current healthcare system is opioid prescriptions, including codeine, fentanyl, hydrocodone, hydromorphone and methadone.
- Part 1: Prescription for Pain: Opioids Leave Chiropractors in Disbelief
- Part 2: Dying for Dollars: Who's Getting Rich from Opioid Abuse?
- Part 3: Where Does the Buck Stop in Opioid Epidemic?
- Part 4: 3 Alternatives to Opioid Use for Chronic Pain
Statistically, it’s likely you or someone close to you has dealt with this issue. In 2015, 1 in 3 Americans used an opioid, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. On the off chance that you don’t have any experience with opioid addiction, it affects all of us indirectly; healthcare system costs are directly affected because obtaining these prescriptions for pain management is the most common reason patients present themselves to their medical doctor. Patients are often unclear whether there are natural or non-addictive alternatives to managing or even alleviating chronic pain. Although chronic pain can be an incredibly complicated situation to manage, there are several natural options that can help decrease pain and increase the quality of daily life for those suffering from it.
Natural Pain Relief Options
While there are a variety of natural alternatives to assist in treatment of chronic pain, those listed below are a good place to start.
Chronic pain often involves a mechanical component. This means part of the problem involves structural components such as bones, joints, tissue, and how they are functioning. The chiropractic adjustment directly addresses the mechanical components of joint and bone position as well as restoration of proper range of motion. This is particularly helpful when the source of the chronic pain is the spine. It is important to note that the spine encases the central nervous system, which is responsible for all function within the body, including such natural occurrences as blinking and breathing. When spinal joints are restricted, or misaligned, two of the many effects are pain and improper function in the relevant body parts. It may also impact the immune system.
Inflammation within the tissues is also a common component in chronic pain. The chiropractic adjustment can improve joint motion thereby facilitating proper healing of injured tissues. Inflammation often decreases following the adjustments, which are typically made to the spine, shoulders, elbows, wrists, knees and ankles. When inflammation decreases, so too does pain.
Tight muscles, weak muscles, and improperly trained muscles can contribute to suffering chronic pain. The use of a massage addresses all of these issues, helping loosen tight muscles and re-organize fibers that are often laid down improperly after an injury. Massage increases the blood flow to muscles and can trigger the release of natural painkillers and hormones within the body. Some even speculate that massage may change the way the brain interprets pain. There is significant documentation that massage can be helpful to those suffering from chronic pain -- especially in partnership with chiropractic.
Acupuncture is a system of medicine originating in China. Practitioners insert fine needles into specific areas of the body in order to elicit specific healing results. While it has uses far beyond pain relief, it is well known for this side effect. The needles activate the body’s internal ability to modulate pain, decrease inflammation and move further on the healing path. It’s also well known that acupuncture can assist in sleep and increase sense of well-being. Poor sleep and depression can accompany chronic pain for many, so these side effects are positive for those who suffer in this way.
Chronic pain is a real issue for all of us on some level -- whether you suffer from it or the economic effect it has on our society due to rising healthcare costs. Finding natural solutions is highly recommended over the long term because they tend to cost less and don’t have the addictive side effects of many of the prescription drugs that have throttled America.
It’s time that Americans fight back against opioids, and there’s a way to do it without getting hurt.
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