With the number of overdose cases associated with opioids on the rise, people are looking for ways to manage pain without having to use medications that contain opiates. Even when supervised by a doctor there is a risk that opioid use can lead to addiction. A poll taken in 2013 showed that 80% of those who use heroin started by using prescription opioids (Jones, 2013, Muhuri et al., 2013) Many different types of pain, such as arthritis pain, is caused by inflammation. By reducing inflammation, you can significantly reduce your pain. Traditionally, pain like this has been treated with anti-inflammatory medications, however, studies are finding that natural methods of pain relief can be just as effective. Here are a few ways in which you can naturally manage your pain without resorting to using opioids.
Hot Or Cold Therapy
Heat therapy promotes improved circulation and eliminates lactic acid buildup, and is very effective in treating chronic muscle pain and joint pain. Heat dilates the blood vessels of the muscles and increases the flow of oxygen and nutrients which help to heal the damaged tissue. Heat also allows for further stretching of the muscles, joints, and connective tissue. Heating pads, steamed towels, can be used for localized treatment, and hot baths used for more widespread pain.
Cold therapy, also known as cryotherapy, works in the opposite way and reduces blood flow to a particular area. This type of therapy is best used for acute pain or nerve pain. Ice packs, coolant sprays, or ice baths can be used for cold therapy.
Reducing the amount of weight that you have put pressure on your joints can make a big difference in pain levels and need of opioids. Excess weight can cause musculoskeletal joint pain and add strain to the muscles and ligaments of the body. Maintaining a healthy weight reduces the stress put on your body and increases mobility, preventing future damage. For those with arthritis, reducing excess weight is especially important as obesity reduces joint function and increases inflammation, both of which can lead to chronic pain.
Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese remedy that uses thin needles inserted into different parts of the body. While it may sound painful, those who have used this method insist that it’s not and that the needles aren’t even felt. The National Institute of Health has reported that acupuncture works particularly well on chronic pain such as back and neck pain, as well as osteoarthritis and headaches and migraines. Acupuncture works by promoting self-healing by stimulating specific sites often referred to as acupoints. This also releases endorphins which act as natural pain killers.
Doctors and scientists are learning more and more about how food affects us, in both negative and positive ways. For those who have chronic inflammatory pain simply changing one’s diet can dramatically reduce or eliminate the need for prescription opioids. Foods that cause inflammation can include:
- Sugar- When too much glucose is consumed, glucose that the body cannot process increases pro-inflammatory messengers called cytokines.
- Fried foods- Foods fried in vegetable oil contain high levels of inflammatory advanced glycation end products or AGEs. When these compounds are eliminated, inflammation is greatly reduced.
- Refined flour- When wheat flour is bleached it is stripped of its slow digestible fiber nutrients. The body is able to digest this much more quickly, which leads to glucose overload and a spike in blood sugar levels. This causes a pro-inflammatory response.
- Saturated fat- Multiple studies have shown that saturated fats trigger fat tissue inflammation and can promote systemic inflammation.
- Dairy- Certain dairy products such as a yogurt decrease inflammation due to its probiotics, however other products such as milk and soft cheeses contain a good amount of inflammation inducing saturated fat.
- Artificial sweetener and additives- Artificial sweetener has been shown to increase the risk of glucose intolerance and also increases the release of inflammatory cytokines. Artificial colorings have also been shown to activate the body’s inflammatory response.
- Processed meat: Most processed meats are both high in saturated fats and AGE’s and may also contain a number of preservatives and other artificial ingredients, all of which increase inflammation.
Foods to avoid include: soda, candy, fried foods, foods and baked goods made with bleached, white flour, soft cheeses, butter, milk, Splenda and aspartame, sugar added breakfast cereal, grain-fed meats, nitrate cured bacon and lunch meat, hot dogs, and fast food.
Some of the best anti-inflammatory foods include: fruits such as blueberries, raspberries and strawberries, raw oats, broccoli, turmeric, wild salmon, tomatoes, spinach, garlic, yogurt, nuts, tuna, coconut oil, and raw honey.
Essential Oils are highly concentrated, fragrant natural oils that are found in plants. They are typically obtained through distillation by either steam or water, and multiple parts of the plants are used. Essential oils have been used for thousands of years for both medicinal and therapeutic uses, pain management being just one of those uses. For example, aromatherapy of oils like lavender or green apple have been shown to relieve chronic migraine pain. Others such as marjoram, chamomile, wintergreen, ginger, and clove, and several others have been shown to significantly reduce inflammation and relieve joint pain. To use oils, mix 15-60 drops of the essential oil with 1 ounce of a carrier oil such as almond or coconut and massage into the affected area.
While there are certainly cases where opioids are necessary for a time, it is best to avoid them if at all possible. Doctors are starting to prescribe opioids less and use alternative therapies more frequently as the risk for addiction and overdose are better understood. If you have been prescribed opioids, please follow your doctor’s instructions closely and only use what is needed and no more. Fatal overdoses can happen to anyone and are possible even with prescribed medication.
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If you or someone you know and love has become addicted to prescription opioids, it is never too late to get the help you need. Whether it began with a prescription from a doctor, or from an illicitly bought substance, addiction poses the same risk to all of us. As the overdose crisis grows worse each year, it is imperative more than ever to seek treatment for your substance abuse disorder.
For 45 years, Clearbrook Treatment Centers has been providing effective treatment to those suffering from chemically dependency. Please contact our Admissions Specialists today and allow us to show you what life really has to offer.