Pain is one of the leading causes of disability in the United States and the number one reason Americans seek medical care, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) publishes.
One out of every four people in the United States suffers from pain lasting longer than a day.
The Washington Post reports that around a third to three-quarters of people who suffer from chronic pain also battle depression, which can create additional issues like fatigue, sleep difficulties, appetite changes, and anxiety. Isolation is also common as individuals struggling with chronic pain stay home more and stop participating in normal life activities.
Loss of employment and interpersonal relationship issues are possible side effects of chronic pain.
These drugs are considered highly addictive, and they are not generally intended to be prescribed on a long-term basis. When taken over a period of time, they may actually serve to make chronic pain symptoms worse, as the brain can increase pain signals to try and override the medication’s blockade. A tolerance to the drugs can form, rendering them ineffective at lower doses and causing a person to have to increase the dosage, or switch to more potent opiates, to find relief.
Drug dependence is a common side effect of long-term opioid use, as the brain relies on the drug to maintain its chemical balance. When the drugs wear off, withdrawal symptoms that are both physically and emotionally difficult can occur.
Opioid drugs impair thinking and coordination, cause mood alterations, and are highly addictive in nature. The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) publishes that 2 million Americans struggled with addiction involving prescription opioid medications in 2014. Furthermore, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that one out of every four people in primary care settings who receive long-term opioid therapy battles addiction to these medications.
Chronic pain is a disease that impacts many aspects of a person’s life. As such, it should be treated with a comprehensive and multidisciplinary approach. Opioids are generally considered the go-to answer for treating chronic pain, but there are additional methods available that have fewer risks and may be viable options for individuals who are recovering from opioid addiction. Alternative medications, holistic and adjunctive therapies, as well as counseling and physical therapy can all help to minimize chronic pain. Medications
There are many non-opiate medications out there that are marketed for pain and also ones that may be used off label to treat chronic pain. Medications like these are often optimally combined with other treatment methods for a complete care plan.
Complementary and alternative medicine, often called CAM, can be helpful in treating various types of chronic pain and may help to improve a person’s overall quality of life, the journal Practical Pain Management reports. CAM is often used as an adjunctive therapy method, meaning these measures are combined with other, often traditional, techniques.
There are many different forms of CAM, and what works for one person may not work as well for another. These methods are generally noninvasive, and a person is safe to try multiple different methods to find what may work best for them.
Physical therapy can help to improve body functioning and therefore help to manage chronic pain. The nerves of the body may need to be retrained, and the hyperactive nervous system reset, especially when long-term opioid therapy has been used. The body will need to relearn how to not perceive every touch or sensation as painful, and careful exercise can help to restore these damaged nerves.
In addition to help from a physical therapist, mental health providers can provide valuable tools for enhancing quality of life and managing pain. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is often beneficial for individuals suffering from chronic pain, as it can teach stress management and healthy coping mechanisms. It can also improve a person’s state of mind, which is often negatively impacted by chronic pain.
Counseling services can help a person to work through issues related to chronic pain, teach problem-solving skills, control anxiety levels, improve social functioning, and help a person to take back control of their life.
People who suffer from chronic pain and are in recovery for opioid addiction still need tools for managing pain that are not medication-based. Holistic, alternative, and adjunct methods as well as therapy and counseling are highly beneficial for both physical and emotional support.
There are some things a person can do to manage chronic pain while in recovery. These include:
There may be times where someone in recovery for opioid addiction needs to take pain medication despite efforts to avoid it. Non-opioid and non-psychotropic drugs are generally preferred to treat pain in these cases. There are several different types of medications on the market today that are less addictive than opioid drugs that may be useful in managing different types of pain.
Pain medications should be used on an as-needed basis and under the careful and direct supervision of a highly trained healthcare provider who is well versed in the history of the individual. There should be no secrets surrounding medications. The individual in recovery needs to be sure that roommates, spouses, mentors, and substance abuse treatment providers are all aware of what medications are being taken, the proper dosages, and the amount of time they will need to be taken for. Close monitoring and holding oneself accountable are vital in helping to minimize potential relapse.
The pain needs to be treated, but with as low and few of doses of medications as possible. Addiction treatment specialists, mental health providers, and medical professionals need to all work together to ensure that both chronic pain and addiction are properly managed in order to promote a sustained recovery.