Recovery from a substance use disorder requires ongoing diligence. This can be especially challenging when you experience an injury or post-operative pain and must inform your doctors that prescription pain medications are off limits. Fortunately, physicians are accustomed to prescribing non-narcotic pain management options that help reduce the risk of relapse.
Our society has been conditioned to reach for prescription medications for whatever ails us, especially when it involves pain management or recovery. In 2020 alone, 4.5 billion prescriptions were filled in the U.S. The public has learned over the last decade just how addictive opioid pain medications are. And with this is awareness, the preference to avoid habit-forming opioids while someone is in recovery is common. Learn about some effective pain recovery strategies that can help you avoid problematic and dangerous medications.
12 Pain Recovery Tips
No one should have to suffer from pain, either acute or chronic. Enduring physical pain takes a toll on one’s mental health, and has the potential to lead to additional health problems. For someone in recovery, or for anyone who wishes to avoid the risk of developing an opioid addiction, it is encouraging to learn that there are many alternative pain management options available. If you suffer from pain, consider these 12 pain recovery tips:
- Acupuncture. This ancient Eastern holistic remedy involves placing tiny needles into specific points, called meridians, on the body. By opening up the energy flow, or qi, acupuncture can reduce some types of chronic pain.
- Anti-Inflammatory Medications. These are over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, that relieve pain by reducing inflammation. Higher dosages are available via prescription.
- Heat. Heating pads or targeted thermal patches can help relieve pain points.
- Yoga. Yoga is an ancient technique that incorporates deliberate poses and movements combined with meditation and breath control. It has been shown to provide a multitude of health benefits, including pain relief.
- Therapeutic Massage. Massage involves the manipulation of the soft tissues, which results in deep relaxation and a reduction of muscle tension. The relaxing effects help reduce pain.
- Muscle Relaxants. Certain non-habit forming muscle relaxants, such as Baclofen or Flexeril, can calm muscle spasms and alleviate inflammation and pain.
- Anticonvulsants. Prescription anticonvulsant medications can be used off-label to help calm damaged nerves.
- Chiropractic Adjustments. Manipulating the spine and joints through chiropractic care can help relieve neck and back pain, as well as symptoms of fibromyalgia.
- Water Therapy. Therapeutic swimming combines physical therapy with swimming to help reduce pain and inflammation. Being in the water removes pressure and gravity on your body, allowing you to do the movements with less stress on the body.
- Physical Therapy. Specific movements and exercises can be prescribed to help control or ease pain, and to prevent future injuries.
- Meditation. Learning how to meditate takes some practice, but eventually you will learn to disengage your mind from troubling distractions. Meditation can even help reduce the intensity or even awareness of physical pain.
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. CBT is a short-term psychotherapy that can teach a patient new ways of thinking. This involves shifting the self-messaging away from negative thoughts in response to the pain, toward applying positive thoughts as a coping mechanism to help manage pain.
Tips for Avoiding Medications in Recovery
The need to seek pain relief isn’t the only thing that may pose a risk to someone in recovery. There are a multitude of potentially problematic medications to avoid because of their stimulating or sedating effects. Keeping a list of these medications and supplements as a reference tool is recommended for those in substance recovery.
Over-the-counter medications to be avoided include:
- Allergy medications like Benadryl, Sudafed, Allegra-D, that have a sedating effect
- Cold and cough medicines, like NyQuil, Dayquil, Theraflu, Tylenol Cold, Dimetapp DM, Coricidin, Alka-Seltzer Plus Cold and Cough, and Robitussin-DM, that have sedating effects
- Imodium AD Liquid for treatment of diarrhea, which contains alcohol
- Weight loss medications that suppress appetite and may also be stimulating
- Herbal supplements like St. John’s Wort, valerian root, ma huang, and kava kava, that can have sedating or stimulating effects
Whether you are in pain recovery or dealing with allergy, seasonal colds, or the flu, knowing which medications to avoid is critical. To protect your recovery, it is essential to have an awareness of the medications that can threaten sobriety, as well as access to holistic relief options.
Ashley Addiction Treatment, formerly Father Martin’s Ashley, is a nationally recognized nonprofit leader in integrated, evidence-based treatment for substance use disorders and is accredited by The Joint Commission. We offer both inpatient and outpatient programs, holistic addiction treatment, drug detox, relapse prevention plans, family wellness programs and a variety of other services tailored to each patient’s needs. Our driving principle — “everything for recovery” — reinforces our mission to heal each individual with respect and dignity, and reflects on our ongoing commitment to meet new challenges. For information about our comprehensive programs, please call (866) 313-6307.