Living with pain can test us to our very core. Pain is something we would do most anything to avoid. When we do experience pain, we just want to numb it. Whether it’s chronic pain from an ongoing health condition like lupus, fibromyalgia, a neurological condition, or a back injury, or winding through a short-term bout with pain following surgery, it is important to fully understand the safest ways to navigate pain recovery.
Chronic pain is very prevalent, with the NIH reporting a rate of one person in five suffering from daily pain. Physicians are tasked with finding a safe balance between managing a patient’s pain symptoms while also avoiding the risks associated with opioid medications. In the wake of undeniable evidence that these medications are prone to misuse or substance use disorder, opioids are now much more tightly controlled.
For those individuals in substance use recovery, pain management for an injury, surgery, or chronic illness, presents a unique challenge. In fact, some may have even acquired their substance use disorder as a result of prescription opioid use following an injury or surgery. Once in recovery, avoiding these drugs is essential. Continue reading to learn about the many alternative pain recovery options.
What is Pain Recovery?
Pain happens to be part of life. We never know what health events, illnesses, or injuries might present themselves in the future and leave us in a state of acute or chronic pain. Acute pain refers to pain that is episodic, such as intense pain that may come and go, or last a short while. Chronic pain is often a lower intensity, but it does not resolve in a timely manner. Chronic pain may persist for months or even years.
Pain recovery is the process through which we manage the effects of the discomfort. To recover from pain, whether acute or chronic, simply means to find safe methods to alleviate these physical effects. When you are in recovery from substances but need to manage pain there are several safe solutions available.
Five Pain Recovery Tips
Approaching pain recovery from the perspective of sobriety can be vexing. Real and legitimate pain should and must be addressed, as living with pain can negatively impact your mental health, your social life, and disrupt sleep and appetite. In most cases, however, if you are in recovery for a substance use disorder you will need to rely on safe alternatives to opioid painkillers.
Fortunately, there are non-narcotic analgesics that are effective for pain recovery. Using these over-the-counter medications combined with holistic treatments and/or physical therapy techniques can help reduce the pain enough to be tolerable. In addition, psychotherapy is also a useful tool for helping the person cope emotionally with a pain event.
Here are five tips for safe pain recovery:
- Non-pharmaceutical pain relievers. There are several safe, non-narcotic medications on the market that can be useful. The medication indicated for the pain will depend on the source of the pain, and whether it is chronic or acute pain. Some of these over-the-counter options include:
- Acetaminophen (Tylenol)
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (Advil, Aleve, Motrin)
- Glucocorticoid steroids
- Anticonvulsants (gabapentin or pregabalin)
- Exercise. There are some types of exercise that can help alleviate pain, such as swimming, yoga, or walking. Also, physical therapy exercises and stretching techniques can be designed to help relieve specific pain points, such as back or joint pain.
- Acupuncture. Strategic placement of tiny needles along specific meridians can help open up energy flow (qi) and reduce pain.
- Supplements. Integrative medicine approaches utilize supplements for reducing certain types of pain. These might include:
- Glucosamine and chondroitin
- Omega-3 fish oil
- Vitamin D
- Capsicum cream
- Massage and chiropractic care. These treatments involve manipulating the soft tissues to help reduce tension, release toxins, lower cortisol levels, and help correct alignment issues through spinal manipulation.
These pain recovery options can help you resume a productive and fulfilling life. By accessing these safe alternatives to prescription opioids, you are able to manage chronic or acute pain while still protecting your sobriety.
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.