6 Effective Non-Opioid Methods for Managing Chronic Pain
By Dr. Mehrtash Amini
Approximately one out of every 10 Canadians between the ages of 12 and 44 (that’s about 1.5 million people) suffer from chronic pain on a regular basis.
Are you part of this group? Do you suffer from chronic pain but also have concerns about using popular treatments like opioid painkillers?
If you answered “yes” to either (or both) of these questions, remember that there are plenty of effective non-opioid treatment options for you to consider. Read on to learn more about them and find out which one is a good fit for you.
What Are Opioids and What Are Their Risks?
Opioids are a type of drug that binds to the body’s opioid receptors. In doing this, they can help to relieve pain. They also, when they’re consumed in high enough doses, can cause an intense feeling of euphoria or a “high.”
About 13 percent of Canada’s population currently relies on opioid painkillers for pain management. For some people, opioids are not a problem. They can use them on a temporary basis to relieve their pain and recover from an injury or surgery, then never feel an urge to touch them again.
In many cases, though, opioids can be habit-forming. The body builds up a tolerance to them very quickly, and the individual often requires a higher dose to experience the same effects they felt before. For those dealing with chronic pain, the risk of opioid addiction is especially high since they require long-term treatment to manage their symptoms.
Non-Opioid Pain Management Alternatives
If the risks of opioid use outweigh the pain management benefits, you’re not out of luck. One of the following treatment options can help to relieve your pain without you having to rely on habit-forming substances:
1. Trigger Point Injection Therapy
Trigger Point Injection Therapy is a highly effective, heavily researched pain management technique that can be used to relieve chronic pain.
Medical professionals can use Trigger Point Injection Therapy to treat musculo-skeletal pain. It’s often used to manage pain in the arms, legs, neck, chest, upper and lower back. It can also help those struggling with myofascial pain, migraines, tension headaches, and fibromyalgia.
A trigger point is a “knot” that forms in the muscle when the muscle isn’t able to relax properly. Trigger Point Injection Therapy involves injecting a small amount of an anesthetic solution into the trigger point. This, in turn, promotes relaxation and reduces pain.
This type of therapy is an effective option for those who haven’t found relief from other pain management interventions.
Trigger Point Therapy is also covered under MSP, so there’s no cost associated with it. If other treatments haven’t worked, you’ve got nothing to lose by looking into it.
2. K-Laser Therapy
Another effective approach for those who haven’t found relief from other treatments is K-Laser Therapy.
K-Laser Therapy, which is also known as High Power Laser Therapy, uses specific light wavelengths to target damaged tissue. These wavelengths have been shown to speed up the healing process and minimize pain by reducing inflammation and improving circulation to the injured or damaged area.
K-Lasers penetrate the deep tissues of the body. The idea of laser treatment might seem intimidating at first. It’s a totally safe procedure, though, and non-invasive as well. It simply expedites the body’s own natural repair processes.
This therapy is an effective treatment for various types of pain. From repetitive strain injuries and chronic back pain to non-healing wounds and fibromyalgia, almost any musculoskeletal condition can improve with the help of K-Laser treatment.
3. Mind-Body Therapies
For some people, a mind-body approach to chronic pain can be very beneficial. Examples of mind-body therapies include things like yoga and meditation.
Participating in these activities on a regular basis can help individuals to feel more at ease and manage their stress in a healthy way. This, in turn, can minimize their pain and other symptoms.
Those who struggle with chronic pain, at first, might be hesitant to engage in a physical activity like yoga, as they may worry that it’ll exacerbate their pain.
In reality, though, gentle movement can help the body to produce endorphins. Endorphins are chemical messengers that promote a better mood and can help to relieve pain. Endorphins actually bind to the opioid receptors and reduce pain in a natural way.
4. Therapeutic Massage
Massage can be a useful tool as well for those dealing with severe, long-term pain.
Therapeutic massage, in particular, offers a myriad of benefits. It helps to relax tense muscles to relieve pain and discomfort, and it can also reduce inflammation that contributes to joint or muscle pain. Massage also minimizes feelings of stress and anxiety, which can often manifest as physical pain within the body.
Regular therapeutic massages may help to block pain signals sent to and from the brain as well. This, in turn, helps people to manage their pain without having to rely on any habit-forming drugs.
Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese therapy. It involves a practitioner inserting very fine needles into the skin at specific points throughout the body.
The idea behind acupuncture is that, by inserting these needles in certain ways, practitioners can help to clear energy blockages that may be causing pain and inflammation.
Researchers also believe that acupuncture works by releasing endorphins in the body. This, in turn, minimizes pain.
Acupuncture can boost serotonin levels as well. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that improves mood and helps to mitigate feelings of depression and anxiety (which can make chronic pain worse).
6. Non-Opioid Medications
There are many non-opioid medications that can also be helpful when it comes to managing pain. Medications like non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, for example, help to reduce inflammation and relieve pain. But, they’re less likely to have the same habit-forming effects as opioid drugs.
Having medications like these on-hand can help patients when they’re having particularly difficult days and need additional relief. It’s also easier for patients to gain access to these medications than opioid painkillers. Many of them are available over-the-counter, and doctors can prescribe them at higher doses if needed.
Get Treatment for Your Pain Today
As you can see, there are many effective non-opioid treatments you can use to manage your chronic pain and improve your quality of life.
Are you interested in giving one of these natural methods a try? If so, we’re here to help at BeWell Medical Clinic in North Vancouver.
Contact us today to learn more about our different natural treatment options or schedule a consultation to find out which approach will be most helpful for you and your condition.