Chronic pain: Treatment alternatives

In this massive wave of the opiate epidemic washing over pain patients, people are asking what is there to replace the treatment we had that is effective. I have been asked a few times with all the articles about people suffering horribly as their meds are taken from them. And we all know about the suicides… and there must be far more no one is talking about. It is dire times for pain. And they should have a plan of action… right? Right?

Chronic pain: Treatment alternatives

So what Are they saying would replace opiates for everyone?

Unfortunately, the answers I have found in many articles are a) things we were already doing With opiates to manage our pain and b) a whole lot of out of pocket alternative therapies they used to call the placebo effect until they decided opiates were evil.

So let’s go over some of the recommendations instead of opiates

  1. Physical therapy- I don’t know about you but I have done a lot of physical therapy with opiates to manage specific pains
  2. Yoga- Yeah you heard me say it because literally, everyone says it. Some of us with joint hypermobility syndromes cannot do this. I injured my back for two years doing it… with joint hypermobility syndromes like EDS we over-extend and it causes injury. Supposedly this one is highly recommended for back pain. When I gained my back pain from yoga itself I made it worse with yoga back pain exercises. But, yeah, we do stretches of all sorts with chronic pain
  3. Cognitive therapy- Now here is the thing, with proper pain medication, cognitive therapy is beneficial in helping us learn ways to cope with the pain we have as well as help us with the negative thoughts that happen with pain. CBD is something I recommend, with proper pain management.
  4. Acupuncture: Funny story, this causes my vertigo to go nutbars. Also, there is a lot of research suggesting it is a) placebo or b) the response to a compassionate acupuncturist. And now they recommend it. Out of pocket of course. But this does indeed help some people.
  5. Massage therapy- A lot of us use this when we can afford it. And it helps somewhat with our medication to relax the tension built up from tensing due to pain. I find it excruciating myself with my fibro.
  6. TENS units- I have tried this as I have tried everything before I had proper pain management. I have no idea if it works for some but it did nothing for me
  7. Botox injections- which this is at least a viable thing to try. I use it for chronic migraine and it reduces intensity for some migraines but not frequency. I am still daily and a lot of the migraines are still up in the 8 and 9 on the pain scale.
  8. Meditation- There are some studies to show this helps with pain perception. I love it to relax the tension I have in my muscles from pain and to de-stress.

Source: Harvard Health Publishing

What people get is there is nothing wrong with these treatments. One or more even. I do meditation, physio stretches, exercise when I can, have tried everything on this list in my life of pain and did cognitive therapy for years. And the only way I manage pain is With those And medication. And I manage. It isn’t eradicated by any means. But it is managed somewhat. I mean, without effective pain management I was suicidal. I don’t think yoga and meditation are going to help when the pain makes me want to die. And I mean that. All those things are great aspects to an effective pain management strategy but pain medication can also be part of that strategy.

And for those of us already using one, two or more of these strategies with pain medication we are very aware those same strategies will not be sufficient by themselves but are also useful. However, that isn’t to say for some people more than one of these strategies will not work effectively for their pain management. Only my point is, one must have an effective pain management strategy in place that works for that person while slowly decreasing pain medication to see if those strategies are sufficient for them. Not just take people off meds and let them just wing it. For some people, this is literally impossible. Their pain is far too immense to not be managed with opiates. For some of us, we use a lot of things and a little pain medication. For some of us, all sort of strategies works without pain medication. You have to consider every single patient as an individual with an individual strategy without being so intimidated you cannot comprehend they need also opiate treatment.

And clearly, that is not their strategy. It is just take people off their meds and just leave them to figure out something to make their life bearable. Which means some people with managed pain now have nothing and some of those people are now unable to work when they could before.

I work with a great pain clinic that has worked out a good strategy for me and for that I am grateful. But I will tell you this: I am keenly aware that could change in a second. No one wants to exist in the hell they had before proper pain management. That is literally a real worry of mine.

Other pain posts of interest:

Pain Awareness: Pain consequences

War on pain

Pain Awareness: The opiate issue
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