The opioid crisis has resulted in devastating consequences for millions of people. From addiction to overdose and the spread of infectious diseases, opioids have wreaked havoc on our communities for decades. The crisis isn’t just on the streets. It’s in the homes of everyday people. According to the National Institute of Health, 21 to 29 percent of people prescribed opioids for chronic pain misuse them, and 8 to 12 percent develop an addiction. The best way to prevent the development of an opioid addiction is to avoid opioid medications altogether. But that doesn’t mean you have to live with pain. There are a number of non-opioid pain treatments available. Read on for more information.
Alternative Approaches to Pain Management without Opioids
Opiate drugs, also known as narcotics, block pain receptors and create artificial endorphins in the body. This is what makes them great for treating pain from injury or surgery, back pain, or severe pain associated with cancer. But it’s also what makes them highly addictive, especially when used to treat chronic (long-term) pain. Doctors and health researchers have been working to actively combat the opioid crisis by helping patients find new ways to alleviate their pain without the use of opiates. Some common non-opioid pain management options include:
- Non-opiate oral pain medications – There are a number of different types of medications, both prescription and over-the-counter, that do not contain opiates. Ibuprofen, acetaminophen, and aspirin are highly effective in alleviating many types of pain.
- Other oral medications – Certain antidepressants and anticonvulsants are sometimes prescribed to treat pain, even in people who do not suffer from depression or convulsions.
- Topical anaesthetics – Topical creams, gels, patches, lotions, and ointments can be applied to the skin to treat certain types of localized pain, including musculoskeletal pain and neuropathic pain. Topical anesthetics are medications applied directly to the skin or mucous membranes to numb the area and alleviate pain. Unlike opioids, which affect the entire body, topical anesthetics work locally to block pain signals at the site of application. These anesthetics come in various forms, including creams, gels, patches, lotions, and ointments.
Non-Opioid Pain Relief:Topical anesthetics offer a non-opioid alternative for individuals seeking pain relief without the potential risks and side effects associated with opioid medications. By numbing the specific area where applied, these medications provide targeted relief without affecting the entire nervous system. This localized approach makes them an appealing option for those looking to minimize systemic effects and reduce opioid reliance.
- Pain pumps – Pain pumps involve the surgical placement of a small pump under the skin that delivers medication to the spinal cord and nerves, for the controlled treatment of chronic pain. Pain pumps, also known as intrathecal drug delivery systems, are specialized devices designed to deliver medication directly to the spinal cord or nerve roots. This targeted approach allows for the administration of non-opioid medications, such as local anesthetics or anti-inflammatory drugs, directly to the source of pain. Pain pumps are surgically implanted under the skin and are programmed to release medication in controlled doses.
Non-Opioid Pain Relief:
Pain pumps offer a non-opioid solution for individuals seeking pain relief without the potential risks and side effects associated with opioid medications. By delivering medication directly to the affected area, pain pumps can effectively manage pain without impacting the entire body. This targeted relief makes them a valuable option for those looking to minimize opioid use in their pain management plan.
- Nerve blocks – Nerve blocks are injections of local anesthetics that can be used to numb the nerves in a specific area in order to provide pain relief. Nerve blocks involve the injection of local anesthetics or other medications directly into or around nerves to interrupt pain signals. This targeted approach allows for the temporary blocking of pain sensations, providing relief without the need for opioid medications. Nerve blocks can be used for both diagnostic and therapeutic purposes, making them a versatile option in pain management. Nerve blocks offer a non-opioid alternative for individuals seeking pain relief without the associated risks and side effects of opioid medications. By interrupting nerve signals, these injections can effectively alleviate pain in specific areas without affecting the entire body. This targeted relief makes nerve blocks a valuable option for those looking to manage pain without relying on opioids.
- Physical Therapy as a Non-Opioid Treatment – Physical therapy is applied across a spectrum of conditions, ranging from acute injuries to chronic pain and rehabilitation after surgeries. Common areas of focus include musculoskeletal issues, neurological disorders, orthopedic injuries, and conditions affecting mobility. Unlike medications that target symptoms, physical therapy adopts a holistic approach by addressing the root causes of pain and dysfunction. Through targeted exercises, manual therapies, and patient education, physical therapists work collaboratively with individuals to enhance mobility, restore function, and improve overall well-being. This comprehensive approach aligns with the growing recognition of the importance of holistic healthcare strategies.
- Acupuncture – Studies have shown acupuncture to be effective in the treatment of various types of chronic pain, including chronic headaches, musculoskeletal pain, and pain from osteoarthritis. One of the key advantages of acupuncture lies in its ability to provide pain relief without the use of opioids. Opioids, while effective in managing pain, come with a risk of dependence, addiction, and other adverse effects. Acupuncture, on the other hand, offers a non-pharmacological and non-invasive alternative for individuals seeking relief from various pain conditions.
- TENS Therapy – Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, or TENS, involves a low-voltage electrical current that blocks the transmission of pain signals to treat both chronic and acute pain. Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) is a pain relief method that operates without opioids, utilizing electrical impulses. This low-risk, noninvasive treatment involves placing electrodes (pads) directly on the skin to transmit electrical impulses to the specific site of injury.
- Radiofrequency Therapy – Radiofrequency therapy uses radio waves to produce an electrical current, which heats up the targeted nerve tissue, blocking the pain signal there. It is important to note that not all non-opioid pain treatments are universally effective for every situation or condition. To determine the most suitable non-narcotic pain management approach, consulting with a healthcare professional experienced in chronic pain management and dedicated to long-term patient health and wellness is advised.
Treat pain without opiates at Pacific Health Systems in San Diego
If you suffer from chronic pain and you’re looking for alternatives to opiates for pain relief, we can help. At Pacific Health Systems in San Diego, our pain management doctors understand the risks of opioid medications and will work closely with you to customize a treatment plan aimed at helping you live a healthy and pain-free life. For more information on chronic pain management at Pacific Health Systems, give us a call at (619) 267-9257 or fill out our contact form today.