PAIN: THE GREAT MYSTERY WITHIN US ALL
Pain. No one can feel it quite like you, or me, or anyone else who experiences pain. All of us hate to be asked “What’s it feel like?” and then be required to give the who, what, when, why and how of our pain’s origin and its current state.
Prescription painkillers, which are more often than not opioid-based medications, can in many cases level off chronic pain, whether the source is a nagging injury or another type of ailment. But even with that benefit to one’s discomfort, a person might have concern that once they begin a pain management program that features opioid-based painkillers, that they could become addicted, especially if they have preexisting issues with other types of addiction.
If you find yourself in the position of either being frightened of addiction or fear that painkillers could spark a relapse due to another source, keep reading for some alternative treatments you can take to counteract your chronic pain.
WHAT ARE THE ALTERNATIVES TO PRESCRIPTION PAINKILLERS?
According to Aware RX, new technologies are continually being tried by pain specialists that can give pain sufferers treatment options other than the opioids that have so readily been doled out to those with chronic pain1.
And while many of these treatments may seem unorthodox or radical, what they are most assuredly free of are the addictive characteristics found in opioids; namely opiates.
To suggest to your doctor that you would like to explore a different route other prescription painkillers, you might be well-served to do a self-assessment of your pain before presenting a case to your caregiver.
Ask yourself: What is my pain like? Is it debilitating? Am I unable to function through the duration of a workday? If so, then you may very well need a strong opioid-based painkiller.
If your pain, however, is more of a low-lying soreness, it might be wise to look into less powerful drugs that can roughly give you the same results as prescription painkillers. Whatever the case may be, confer with your doctor about your alternatives.
The Chinese describe the near 4,000-year-old practice of acupuncture with the character “Chen,” which means to prick with a needle. More recently, acupuncture has become a mainstream treatment for chronic pain. While no one is quite certain how acupuncture works, many in the field suggest that the practice releases pain-numbing chemicals throughout the body, as well as block the pain signals coming from the nerves.
Another ancient practice, yoga has a 10,000-year-old history of relieving pain while also getting people into shape. Each of the 32 basic yoga poses work various joints and muscles, and according to Psychology Today2, yoga can also have the opposite brain effect than that of chronic pain. That is to say that while chronic pain can alter the brain’s structure by changing its volumes of gray and white matter, yoga bulks up the brain’s gray matter and strengthens white matter connectivity, both of which can act as buffers against pain.
Much like yoga, regular exercise tends to raise a person’s pain threshold, and in doing so, make them less susceptible to the effects of pain. Trent Nessler, vice president of Champion Sports Medicine of Birmingham, Ala states, “With chronic pain, your pain threshold drops — in other words, it takes less pain to make you feel more uncomfortable. With cardiovascular, strengthening, and flexibility exercise, you can improve that pain threshold.”
Massage’s main benefit toward stemming chronic pain is it releases serotonin, which can be a very powerful, yet natural pain reliever. And according to Tiffany Field, PhD and director of the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami School of Medicine in Miami, Florida, massage provides one other extremely potent pain deterrent: deep, restorative sleep3.
“Most people go to massage therapists to reduce pain,” Field informs. There’s a release of serotonin, which is the body’s natural production of anti-pain chemicals. Additionally, an aggravating factor in pain syndromes can be a lack of deep, restorative sleep. Massage is very effective at increasing deep sleep. With more deep sleep, you have less pain.”
Massage can relieve the pain associated with fibromyalgia, which is a chronic disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain, fatigue and tenderness. Additional benefits of massage include lower levels of anxiety and depression as well as an increased range of physical motion.
The beauty of these four therapies is they do not involve potentially addictive or harmful medications. And as far as yoga and regular exercise, these are two potential pain treatments that you can perform on your own.
If you or a loved one has chronic pain, suggest one or a combination of these therapies. Not only might you mitigate your pain, but there’s a strong chance you will also improve your bodily health as well as your overall quality of life.
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- Pain Treatment Alternatives Becoming More Accessible, AwareRX. Retrieved June 1, 2016.
- How Does Yoga Relieve Chronic Pain, Psychology Today. Retrieved June 1, 2016.
- Massage Therapy Manages Pain of Chronic Condition, Massage Envy. Retrieved June 1, 2016.