In Part III we present natural alternatives to opiates for pain relief.
The opioid crisis has taken a heartbreaking toll on the nation, but there are reasons to believe that positive change is possible. Many doctors are realizing that opioids are being prescribed too liberally and that other effective methods of pain relief can be used that do not carry the same risks as narcotics. If pharmaceutical companies do not want to take steps to slow the flow of pills, doctors and patients can. We are not powerless. Doctors can be more judicious in their prescribing of pain medication, and patients can advocate for themselves by exploring alternative forms of treatment for pain.
Some doctors are taking notice of this problem in society, and while opioid deaths are still rising, we are at least seeing progress in terms of prescribing habits. 2016 showed the first sustained decrease in the number of opioid prescriptions since OxyContin hit the market two decades ago.
Leaders in the medical community are now recommending alternative therapies such as acupuncture, massage therapy and yoga to deal with pain. Dr. Nitin Damle, the president of the board of regents for the American College of Physicians (ACP) has stated pills should not be the first choice in pain relief for back issues. Dr. Damle told the New York Times, “We need to look at therapies that are non-pharmacological first.” The ACP’s latest clinical guideline on lower back pain states that clinicians and patients should select treatments such as superficial heat, massage, acupuncture, spinal manipulation and other non-invasive therapies.
Here are details on some of the natural pain relief treatments recommended by the ACP that are offered at the SCNM Pain Relief Center:
- Acupuncture: A Traditional Chinese Medicine therapy in which thin needles are inserted into different areas of the body to relieve pain and reduce stress.
- Physical Medicine: Physical medicine encompasses numerous treatments that relieve pain by creating movement in the body. Physical medicine has many uses, from bringing fluid towards or away from a body part, correcting spinal or joint subluxations, or kneading out fascial adhesions and muscle “knots.”
- Injection Therapy: Injecting health-promoting substances into the body bypasses the gastrointestinal tract, which provides a direct route to the blood stream and damaged or inflamed tissues. There are many different types of injection therapies, and they are generally administered either intravenously or by targeting the musculoskeletal system.
- Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction: Practicing mindfulness works to improve biological, psychological, and social health issues and prevent disease. By addressing each of these factors with behavioral treatments, health is created from within, thereby reversing and preventing conditions.
- Tai chi and Yoga: Ancient disciplines that focus on movement, flexibility, and inner peace. Individuals of all ages and strengths can practice tai chi and yoga.
- Electromyography Biofeedback (EMG): Electromyography biofeedback utilizes electrodes to detect a change in skeletal muscle activity, which is then fed back to the user through a visual or auditory signal. This treatment can be used to either increase activity in weak/paretic muscles or facilitate a reduction in tone in spastic muscles.
- Low-level Laser Therapy: A treatment that utilizes specific wavelengths of light to interact with tissue in order to accelerate the healing process and reduce inflammation.
These are excellent non-narcotic methods of pain relief, and we hope more people will utilize such therapies in the future. Chronic pain is highly debilitating problem that drastically reduces quality of life, but opioids do not have to be the answer. Patients and doctors can help turn the tide on the opioid crisis by utilizing and advocating for non-narcotic treatments.