Pain can impact nearly every aspect of your daily life from cleaning the house to going to work or playing with your kids. In fact, 100 million Americans suffer from chronic pain, which is pain lasting 3-6 months or longer. Most often, chronic pain is treated using prescription opioids. To help treat your pain with a non-opioid solution, consider these tips.
5 Tips for Coping with Chronic Pain
(Family Features) Pain can impact nearly every aspect of your daily life from cleaning the house to going to work or playing with your kids. In fact, according to the Institute of Medicine, 100 million Americans, or more than 30 percent of the population of the United States, suffer from chronic pain, which is pain lasting 3-6 months or longer.
Most often, chronic pain is treated using prescription opioids. However, the National Institutes of Health estimates 2 million people in the U.S. suffer from substance use disorders related to prescription pain relievers, while 60 people die every day as a result of opioid overdoses, according to the National Safety Council.
"The country is facing intertwined crises of opioid misuse and chronic pain management. Non-opioid, non-pharmacological treatments such as acupuncture and other similar interventions can be essential in handling patients' pain management as a complement to lessen dependency on opioid prescriptions and serve as a more effective holistic therapy for chronic pain," said Dr. Kory Ward-Cook, chief executive officer of the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM). "The care provided by NCCAOM National Board-Certified Acupuncturists is essential in continuing the movement toward greater integrative and complementary pain care, especially as a non-pharmaceutical alternative to harmful opioid prescriptions."
To help treat your pain with a non-opioid solution, consider these tips:
Set Goals for Yourself
Use Relaxation Techniques
Consider Non-Pharmaceutical Treatment Options
Focus on Nutrition
Keep Track of Progress
Photo courtesy of Getty ImagesSOURCE:
National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine
To help shed light on the growing national problem with opioid drugs, Dr. W. Michael Hooten, a Mayo Clinic anesthesiologist and Pain Clinic specialist, lends his expert insight on what people need to know about opioids.
(BPT) - While a decade ago you may not have heard much about opioids, today they make headlines daily. The nationwide epidemic crosses generations and socioeconomic lines, and it's affecting your family, friends and neighbors.
"Opioids have long been used clinically to treat pain, but prior to the 1990s they were primarily reserved for patients with a limited life expectancy, such as for someone with cancer or in a hospice setting," says Dr. W. Michael Hooten, a Mayo Clinic anesthesiologist and Pain Clinic specialist. "The potential problems associated with long-term use were secondary considerations."
To help shed light on this growing national problem, Dr. Hooten lends his expert insight on what people need to know about opioids.
Opioids are prescribed for various reasons
Opioids are used to treat a variety of pain disorders. While they are commonly prescribed after an operation, opioids are also used to treat a host of chronic pain conditions including musculoskeletal, abdominal, pelvic, and neuropathic pain.
Length of use varies
"Following surgery, up to one in four patients may use opioids longer than anticipated," says Dr. Hooten. "How long, exactly, depends on several clinical factors."
He notes that after an operation, a patient might use opioids to manage acute pain for three to five days.
"When opioids are used for acute postoperative pain, patients should try to use the lowest possible dose." After this short time period, opioids should be replaced with non-opioid pain medicines including Tylenol scheduled to be taken every six hours."
There are alternatives for pain management
There are many alternative options for chronic pain. Dr. Hooten suggests talking with your doctor about:
* Non-opioid analgesics (non-opioid pain medications).
* Interventional treatments such as image-guided spine injections or nerve blocks. * Acupuncture.
* Low-impact exercise such as walking, yoga, Pilates. Consider working with a physical therapist to develop a structured exercise program.
* For advanced pain treatment, spinal-cord stimulation can disrupt the pain stimuli and provide sustained pain relief.
* Work with a pain psychologist who can help teach individuals how to use specialized behavioral and cognitive techniques that could lead to improvements in daily functioning and quality of life.
Opioids can be deadly if misused
"Approximately 90 people per day die in the U.S. from a prescription opioid and/or an illicit opiate overdose," says Dr. Hooten. Many of those are accidental overdoses. “People who take prescription opioids will inadvertently mix them with benzodiazepines (e.g., Valium and Xanax). Dr. Hooten warns that these two drug classes should never be taken together, as the combination can suppress the central nervous system and put the individual at risk of an accidental overdose.
Addiction can happen to anyone
As Dr. Hooten notes, “No one plans to get addicted, but it happens. Using opioids requires a high level of vigilance for the signs and symptoms of addiction."
There are many signs of over-reliance or misuse that families should be aware of. These include an increased preoccupation with the drug, concern about the timing of the next dose or refill, hiding use of the drug, and signs of intoxication like slurred speech and excessive sleep.
If you notice these warning signs, alert your loved one about your concerns. "This might be enough to prompt a change," says Dr. Hooten. "Otherwise relay this information to the prescriber and tell them what’s going on. They can take the correct next steps."
For more information on pain medication and alternatives, or to make an appointment, visit www.mayoclinic.org.
(BPT) - Opioids often are the go-to pain killer for everything from back aches and injuries to post-surgical pain, as evidenced by the more than 300 million prescriptions written each year. While they can help with moderate to severe short-term pain, opioids are not without risk. Because they have significant side effects, including an increased risk of addiction and overdose, the American Society of Anesthesiologists suggests those who take opioids ask some tough questions — including if it is time to consider alternatives.
Kathleen Callahan understands the dilemma. She suffers from a condition that causes painful cysts that required multiple surgeries resulting in post-surgical and chronic pain for which she took opioids for years. Despite being on a high dose of opioids, she still had chronic pain. So she turned to Anita Gupta, D.O., Pharm.D., a physician anesthesiologist who specializes in pain medicine.
“When I was on opioids long-term I couldn’t function, couldn’t be involved in my children’s lives and my work was suffering,” said Kathleen. “Dr. Gupta helped me manage my pain so life is livable. Now I exercise, go out with friends and go to my kids’ activities.”
“Kathleen and I had some difficult discussions. I didn’t think the medications were helping her anymore and I was truthful with her,” said Dr. Gupta. “She asked some hard questions, and I helped her move forward and cope with her pain. Since she’s been opioid-free Kathleen is vibrant and energetic. She has her life back.”
If you are taking opioids or your physician has prescribed them, the American Society of Anesthesiologists suggests asking yourself (and your physician) some tough questions:
* Are opioids affecting my quality of life? Opioids have many side effects, ranging from severe constipation, mental fogginess and nausea to depression. Kathleen said she was “exhausted, cranky, depressed, constipated and gaining weight.” She realized the side effects of opioids were worse than the pain itself, motivating her to seek other options.
* What are my concerns about taking opioids — or stopping them? With the media attention surrounding opioid risks, many people worry they:
- are being judged by others
- may become addicted or overdose
- won’t be able to control their pain if they stop taking opioids
Ask your physician about obtaining naloxone, a drug that can reverse an overdose. If you take opioids when you don’t have pain or use more than directed, you may develop a dependence. Talk to your physicians about alternatives to manage your pain.
* Is it time to consider other methods of pain management? Opioids are most effective in the short term. If they are taken for chronic pain, they should be part of a “multimodal” plan that includes other methods of pain management, including:
- Injections or nerve blocks, which can short circuit muscle and nerve pain.
- Electrical stimulation and spinal cord stimulation devices that send electrical impulses to block pain.
- Physical therapy, which strengthens muscles to improve function and decrease pain. Whirlpools, ultrasound and massage can help, too.
- Alternative therapies, such as acupuncture, biofeedback, meditation, deep breathing and relaxation, which help you learn how to ease muscle tension.
* What type of physician can best help manage my pain? If you have severe or ongoing pain, be sure to see a physician who specializes in pain management, such as a physician anesthesiologist. These specialists have received four years of medical school and additional training in a medical specialty, followed by an additional year of training to become an expert in treating pain. They have the expertise to best help you manage your pain.
“If I was still on opioids I would be overweight, inactive, not involved in my children’s lives and depressed,” said Kathleen. “When you have a physician like Dr. Gupta who you trust and who shows you there’s another way, it’s just amazing. It’s night and day.”
For more information, download ASA’s Asking the Hard Questions About Opioids. To learn more about the critical role physician anesthesiologists play before, during and after surgery, visit www.asahq.org/WhenSecondsCount.
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