Chronic pain is a serious health condition that can lead to a variety of physical and mental health problems, including depression and anxiety. In 2016, 50 million Americans suffered from chronic pain, which is considered pain on all or most days over a span of at least six months. Almost 20 million Americans suffered from high-impact chronic pain.
This condition is not only painful, it affects every part of a person’s life, including their ability to work and socialize. People who suffer from chronic pain are often at an increased risk of forming harmful addictions as they seek out ways to treat their pain. In order to avoid developing an addiction, people who suffer should seek out healthy ways of dealing with pain.
Chronic Pain and Opioid Use
There are many health-related circumstances that can lead to chronic pain, such as disease or injury. People who suffer from chronic conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, and fibromyalgia often suffer from chronic pain as a result of their disease. However, persistent pain can also be due to a large range of other ailments such as cancer or multiple sclerosis. It can also result from injuries that cause chronic back or leg pain, which can result in tense muscles, lack of energy, appetite changes, and limited mobility.
These physical symptoms can lead to emotional effects of depression, anger, anxiety, and fear of re-injury. This fear can be debilitating as it can limit an individual’s ability to return to work or enjoy leisure activities.
One of the unfortunate results of chronic pain is that it often leads to opioid dependency. The most commonly used opioids for pain management include oxycodone, fentanyl, and hydrocodone — all of which are highly addictive and can quickly cause a dependency problem.
An astonishing 52,404 people in the U.S. died from lethal drug overdoses in 2015, and over 20,000 of those deaths were related to prescription pain relievers. Many individuals who overdose on prescription opioids are simply trying to attain relief from their chronic pain and end up taking too much of a prescription.
It’s crucial for chronic pain to be taken seriously and to be treated by medical professionals. Whether the reason behind a person’s chronic pain is treatable or not, people with chronic pain should not have to suffer, and they should not be expected to simply deal with their pain. Medical professionals must develop a treatment plan that works for each individual. Each should take the necessary steps to ensure that they are prescribing medication as safely as possible.
To avoid the potentially life-threatening mistakes that occur with prescribing errors, patients should find doctors they trust to double-check prescriptions and who will answer any questions or concerns about the medication and treatment plan.
Alternative Ways to Treat Pain
Although opioid use is often necessary to control a person’s pain, medical professionals should also provide those suffering from chronic pain with healthy ways to treat their pain in order to reduce opioid use whenever possible. When chronic pain seriously affects a person’s life, opioids are often simply used to take the edge off of the pain to make it manageable. However, before deciding to simply rely on opioids, it’s important to seek out other ways to relieve chronic pain. This can help prevent opioid addiction and avoid the potentially fatal consequences that come with opioid dependency.
One method that is particularly helpful for treating pain in those who have suffered illnesses or injuries that limit their mobility is physical therapy. Although this is a more expensive option than opioid medications, physical therapy can help treat the underlying reasons behind pain. It can help not only manage chronic pain, but hopefully reduce it in the long run. Physical therapists are trained in physical medicine and can customize exercise programs that help improve a patient’s ability to function and decrease their pain. This is often done through practices like ultrasounds, deep-muscle massages, and whirlpools.
Another alternative therapy includes acupuncture, which involves inserting very thin needles into targeted areas of the body to interrupt pain signals. Several clinical studies show that acupuncture is capable of successfully treating a wide variety of conditions, including musculoskeletal problems that cause back pain, neck pain, and other symptoms. Acupunctures promote a natural self-healing process by stimulating specific anatomic sites (known as “acupuncture points”) and using further stimulation — such as pressure, heat, electrical stimulation and the application of topical herbal medicines — to further enhance the effects.
For individuals who experience chronic pain due to muscle spasms or nerve pain, injections with local anesthetics or other medications can help alleviate pain. Medical professionals can use injections of local anesthetic and steroids directly on the area of the affected nerve, which can help with pain control. Controlling pain this way can help improve overall function and quality of life by reducing the need for opioids, which do not target pain in specific locations.
There are several other alternative methods for pain treatment, including surgery for body abnormalities that are responsible for pain or holistic therapies that can help relax the body. Chronic pain must be treated. Its effects are often debilitating and can seriously impact a person’s quality of life. Opioids can help, but if possible, it’s best to find other ways to treat pain that don’t have as harsh an impact on the body. Physical therapy, acupuncture, and nerve blocks can all help a person to manage their pain, and if there’s a chance it will help, it’s important to explore these options with your doctor.
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