Many people with chronic illness are in pain, both physically and emotionally. They hurt most of the time and have a difficult time coping with their condition. Pain hurts and no one wants to hurt. Therefore, most doctors will prescribe opioids and other pain medication so their patients feel less pain.
If you need pain medication to get through the day, I understand and so do countless others. Although pain medication helps sufferers cope, there are some serious risks associated with the overuse of prescription pain medication.
Need further convincing? Consider the facts.
- Fatal overdoses from opiate medications, such as methadone, hydrocodone, and oxycodone, have quadrupled since 1999. It is even estimated that over 16,000 people died in 2010 from pain medication overdoses.
- In 2013, almost 24,000 people died from drug overdose and more than 50% were from prescription pain medication.
- More than 2 million children aged 12 and older have become addicted to opioids.
- The misuse of pain medication is earning pharmaceuticals approximately $25 billion a year according to the Drug Enforcement Administration.
So, although you may need your pain medication to make it through the day, the good news is that you can alleviate your risks of overdose by being responsible when taking your medications and taking an active role in your own pain management.
One smart way to reduce your risk is to use alternative pain medication to treat your condition. Here are some tips to get started:
- Understand what is causing your chronic pain. Your answer cannot just be “my chronic illness, of course.” Pain is typically defined as physical discomfort arising from injury or illness. It may be superficial or deep and caused by damage to or malfunction of the nervous system or by the activation of nocireceptors. However, most pain has a purpose. It is basically your body telling you that something is wrong and needs to be addressed. By learning to listen to your body, you can improve the situation and help yourself heal.
- Evaluate your treatment options. Besides pain medication, there are many nonsurgical options to treat chronic pain. With this 30-minute treatment, a heat probe is used to desensitize certain sensory nerves in specific areas. This takes the edge off the pain and is as effective as regulated pain medication. This treatment is often recommended to individuals with chronic knee osteoarthritis.
- Strengthen your body with exercise and physical therapy. When you use this method, you basically treat disease, malformity and injury with exercise (strength training, light aerobics, motion drills), heat and massage. In essence, you strengthen your body so it performs better. Physical therapy is not a quick solution and provides lasting relief from pain and discomfort.
- Consider natural pain solutions to replace or complement existing treatments (after receiving clearance from your physician, of course). Most medical professionals understand the benefits of natural treatments and are quite willing to use them in conjunction or in lieu of traditional prescriptions.
Some natural alternatives you can try are:
- Chinese Acupuncture – A method that began centuries ago in China using needles to stimulate nerve fibers, sending a message to the brain to release a specific hormone that will fight the pain.
- Herbs and dietary supplements like Capsaicin, fish oil, arnica, feverfew, turmeric, aquamin, Methylsulfonyl-methane (MSM), SAM-e, magnesium, ginger, and more. Before taking any supplements, double-check with your physician.
- Chiropractic sessions are a complementary treatment that address mechanical disorders of the musculoskeletal system, especially the spine.
In conclusion, pain is real and it’s no fun at all. However, most pain is there for a purpose and if we learn to listen to it and work with it, we can improve. Although traditional pain medications alleviate painful symptoms, we must use them wisely and be aware of the risks of overuse. By utilizing alternative treatments, you may be able to eliminate your need for prescription meds altogether or significantly reduce their usage.