According to the National Safety Council, over 42,000 Americans died of an opioid overdose in 2016, and the Center for Disease Control reports that more than 70,000 people have died from drug overdoses in 2017, 68 percent of which were related to opioids. These escalating numbers — an additional 28,000 Americans — don’t seem to be diminishing anytime soon, due mostly (in part) to the fact that we are currently living in a culture where the current pharmaceutical practice is, “if it hurts, prescribe an opioid.” Despite these teeming amounts of opioid-related deaths and the more than 20 million Americans struggling with drug addiction, this practice of prescribing opiates remains the go-to remedy for chronic pain.
The current White House Administration has acknowledged the opioid epidemic by throwing money at the problem. On September 4th, President Donald Trump announced that they would be awarding nearly $2 billion in grants to local and state agencies to fight the opioid crisis, $900 million of which will go to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to help state and local governments keep track of overdose data and develop ways for agencies to help those who have overdosed get treatment.
Natural Alternatives to Opioids for Pain Relief
But, what can you, yourself, do when confronted with chronic pain? The easy fix, of course, would be to bow to the wishes of Big Pharma and risk addiction or death by allowing your doctor to prescribe opiates for you. But, what if there were another way to deal with chronic pain? What if there were an alternative?
We live in an era where science has made revolutionary-but-less-publicized strides in pain management, all of which are available to you, but none of which are usually touted by physicians whose primary concerns are alleviating pain and appeasing said pharmaceutical companies. Chief amongst these medical marvels are:
Using X-ray imaging, physicians can inject numbing medications that block or dampens pain which might even stop chronic pain from developing altogether. Depending on the source and type of pain, injections can occur anywhere throughout the body. Do you have pain in the arm or face? Simple injections in the neck with block the nerves responsible. In some cases, relief might require a series of injections and/ or repeated treatment.
Biofeedback, Mindfulness, and Meditation
Researchers aren’t exactly sure how or why biofeedback works, but the idea is that, by harnessing the power of your mind and becoming aware of what’s happening to your body, you can acquire more control over your health. As with the other modalities, it’s all about “Meditation not Medication.” All are proven effective alternatives to traditional painkilling opiates when it comes to milder pain, reducing its intensity.
Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation
Electrical signals can be used to bring about short-term pain relief, particularly for many types of muscle pain. Low-voltage electrical signals are sent from a small device to pads attached to the skin at pain sites. Scientists are not exactly sure why this is effective, but many speculate it either disrupts nerve signals to the brain or inspires production of endorphins (the body’s natural pain killers).
Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)
Usually stronger than acetaminophen, NSAIDs are over-the-counter medications that relieve pain, reduce inflammation (as well as lower fevers). Traditional NSAIDs include aspirin and ibuprofen, but naproxen (drugs like the brand name Alleve) are also amongst the most commonly recognized kinds of NSAIDs. With these over-the-counter remedies, however, come risks. Regular use of these drugs, usually among older patients, can lead to blood clotting issues as well as increase the risk of cardiovascular issues, ulcers, and gastrointestinal problems. Still, as far as pain is concerned, the risk of addiction is minute, and use of NSAIDs allow patients to work and/or operate heavy machinery while using them.
Special pumps are implanted which allow you to meter out doses of pain medication directly to your spinal cord with the push of a button, inspiring relief without side-effects that often accompany oral medications. These pain pumps are usually administered to people with cancer pain, but they’re also used by patients who have side effects when using oral pain killers.
MASSAGE, ACUPUNCTURE, and CHIROPRACTIC CARE
Considered “alternative therapies” by doctors and pharmacies alike, therapies like acupuncture, spinal manipulation, and the like are safe, natural mechanisms for managing pain. Not only are these holistic treatment methods proven to relieve chronic pain, they are also known to release dopamine-stimulating endorphins and improve bodily functions. “Meditation not medication” is a great rule of thumb when dealing with lower levels of chronic pain.
SPINAL CORD STIMULATION (SCS)
Implanted in the lower back, a pacemaker-like device is attached to tiny wires in the spinal canal. This device actually translates pain into more tolerable sensations, like tingling or massage-like feelings. Patients use a remote-control or, in some instances, a cell phone app to send signals to the painful regions every time pain occurs. And, although this remedy is excellent for back pain, it is also good for diabetic nerve pain caused by neuropathy.
While opiates are, without question, highly effective at treating and relieving pain, they also carry within them the capacity to destroy lives. Addiction is not an idea to be taken lightly, and the risks associated with repeated usage of opiates are rarely worth the cost. Always weigh your options responsibly with your doctor to avoid the need for substance abuse programs. Let them know on the front end that, if opiates are the solution to your pain management issues, then they should absolutely be a last resort. To learn more about natural alternatives to opioids for pain relief, then call Westwind Recovery today at 855-815-9727!