Safe Strategies to Manage Pain
Nearly a quarter of people taking opioids long-term end up battling addiction. For many types of pain, opioids aren’t necessarily any more effective than non-opioid medications. A study published in the journal JAMA in October 2018 found that people who took opioids for chronic knee, back, or hip pain did no better than those who took non-opioid medications. In some cases, they experienced worse pain.
Lower back pain affects nearly half of healthy, active people aged 60 and older. The American College of Physicians (ACP) recommends therapies like heating pads, massage, acupuncture, tai chi, and yoga as a first-line of treatment. Research has found that people who stay active – with simple walking and stretching experience faster recovery and less discomfort than their less-active peers. If pain persists more than a week or two, a doctor may be able to prescribe physical therapy or chiropractic care. For chronic pain not responding to these treatments, the ACP recommends a non-opioid prescription in conjunction with the methods outlined above.
If you’re having surgery, speak with your doctor in advance to decide on a pain management strategy. While opioids may be a useful part of a post-surgical pain plan in the short term, they are not a cure-all. According to the journal Anesthesiology, of 1.5 million surgical patients – those who got at least two other forms of pain medication, such as acetaminophen and an NSAID, along with an opioid did better overall. In general, opioids should be taken only as necessary to relieve breakthrough pain and for no longer than three weeks following a procedure. People coming out of surgery should also have realistic expectations and a plan in place to manage pain safely.