Managing Pain Without Opioids
Managing your recovery and your chronic pain means finding ways to feel better without prescription painkillers like opioids. In many cases, chronic pain is similar to addiction in that it’s a lifelong condition that needs to be managed daily.
If you have a substance use disorder, you may be reluctant to seek medical care for your pain. You may be afraid of being judged or not taken seriously by medical professionals. Or, maybe you’re afraid they’ll prescribe you a medication that could cause relapse. This is why it’s important to be honest about your level of pain, history with alcohol or drugs and progress in recovery as well as any co-occurring mental illnesses like depression, anxiety or PTSD.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) recommends asking your pain management care team the following questions:
- What is my diagnosis?
- What treatments are available, especially treatments that don’t involve taking medications?
- What are the risks and benefits of each treatment option?
- What should I do if I have new pain, such as from a fall?
- What should I do if I have an episode of intense pain (often called “acute pain”)?
- What should I do if I need surgery?
- How will my treatment for pain affect my addiction recovery effort?
- What should I do if I relapse?
Drug-Free Ways to Manage Chronic Pain
Once you get the answers to these questions, your healthcare provider may recommend some of the following ways to manage pain without opioids, notes SAMHSA.
Explore exercise. The right exercise can improve your strength, flexibility, balance and your mood — which all play a role in overall pain reduction and quality of life. Your healthcare professional may recommend physical therapy so you can learn specific exercises as well as the amount of exercise to do depending on your chronic pain.
Seek counseling. Living with chronic pain can be mentally exhausting and this is where counseling can play a role. Cognitive behavioral therapy, for instance, can give you the tools to manage your attitude towards pain as well as techniques to help you relax and/or fall asleep.
Try alternative treatments. You’ll need to work closely with your pain management care team to determine if any of these therapies can work for you. Here are a few to consider, notes SAMHSA:
- Nutritional supplementation: improves overall health and body’s ability to resist pain signals.
- Massage or vibration: relieves muscles soreness and reduce sensations of pain.
- Acupuncture: improves the body’s control over pain sensations.
- Chiropractic treatment: manipulates the spine, joints and muscles so they move with less pain.
- TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation): stimulates nerves and blocks pain signals.
- Cold therapy: reduces swelling and pain.
- Heat therapy: provides relief for sore or stiff muscles or for joint pain.
- Braces and body supports: reduces pain and restores function.
- Meditation: promotes relaxation and improves pain coping skills.
Mind your mental health. Many people with chronic pain have anxiety, depression or PTSD. If left untreated, these mental health conditions can make pain feel worse and make it more difficult to stick with a pain management plan. If you’re struggling with any of these conditions, consider extra mental health support such as counseling or participation in a mutual-help group.
Maintain your addiction recovery. Relapse prevention is a key part of pain management. Luckily, many of the things that can help you manage your pain—having a positive attitude, keeping busy and learning coping skills, for instance—can also help you to control cravings and prevent relapse.
Opioid Use Disorder Treatment
If you or someone you love is struggling with opioid addiction, please contact Seabrook. We can help you overcome the cycle of addiction and give you the tools for living a sober and satisfying life. To learn more about our addiction treatment programs, call today: 800-761-7575.