Four Ways to Manage Chronic Pain in Sobriety
With the opioid epidemic continuing to take lives, it is important to educate the public on alternative methods of main management. Here are 4 ways to manage chronic pain without the use of opioids.
Since dependence on opioids can occur after only seven days of taking opioids, much of the opioid epidemic has been attributed to the excessive prescribing of pain medications to patients after surgery or when dealing with chronic pain. In addition, those who are living a sober life in recovery who struggle with chronic pain face unique challenges because opioids are no longer an option. However, there are several methods of pain management that one can use without turning to prescription opioids.
Acupuncture consists of pressure, heat, and needles being applied to various pressure points on the body. It has been shown to have many benefits, including a reduction in inflammation and an increase in blood flow. The National Institute of Health (NIH) claims that acupuncture can alleviate several forms of chronic pain such as pain in the lower back, knees, neck, and even pain from osteoarthritis. Through nerve stimulation, endorphins are released into the body which act as natural painkillers. In the process, serotonin is also released which regulates one’s mood. When endorphins and serotonin are released at the same time, pain can be drastically reduced.
Although acupuncture may seem painful, the needles are thinner than a strand of hair. Many people feel relaxed during the process and some even fall asleep. To ensure that the practice is done safely, it should be done by a professional with sterile equipment in a clean environment.
Physical exercise may seem counterproductive when it comes to pain management, but it is beneficial in preventing pain from getting worse by keeping muscles active and strong.
Stretching is effective by increasing flexibility and loosening tight or stiff muscles, making day to day movements easier and preventing further muscle pain. Stretching increases blood flow and aligns the spine, resulting in better posture. One shouldn’t force these stretches but should move into them slowly. One should only feel a stretch—if there is any pain in the stretch then it should not be pursued. These should be held for 30 to 45 seconds at a time and should be repeated five to 10 times.
There are many types of low impact exercise that help improve muscle strength without causing pain. For example, swimming provides light aerobic exercise and warm water can help relax the muscles. The weightless nature of water helps with movement, therefore lessening the physical demand on joints. Exercising in warm water also allows the spine to expand, relieving any pressure in the lower and upper back that may be causing pain. Walking and biking are two other forms of low impact exercise that can be effective in reducing pain.
3. Yoga and Meditation
Yoga and meditation are two great forms of holistic therapy that can be used to ease and cope with chronic pain. Through these practices, one can learn to focus on their breathing, which can help put pain into perspective. By practicing mindfulness, one is able to listen to the demands of the body in order to formulate a plan to treat the pain. Bringing this kind of awareness to any strain that is placed on the body can help reduce pain in the affected areas.
In addition, holding yoga poses releases any tension that may be causing additional pain. Yoga also helps develop a strengthened spine and neck which takes the pressure off of the joints and bones. Through yoga, one can utilize their muscles to gain strength and resilience.
4. Healthy eating
There are various healthy foods that can decrease inflammation in the body and help ease chronic pain. Both ginger and cherries can reduce inflammation by up to 25 percent. They release pain enzymes causing an effect similar to that of aspirin and other anti-inflammatories to relieve pain. Consuming omega-3s, or fish that are low in mercury, such as herring or salmon, can help reduce back pain due to improved blood flow and reduced inflammation in nerves and blood vessels. Coffee has been used for headache relief for many years, because it narrows the enlarged blood vessels that cause them, just be sure to drink a glass of water with that coffee to prevent dehydration. Additionally, hot peppers and edamame are great foods to eat for those suffering from arthritis pain because they stimulate nerve endings and deplete chemicals that relay pain signals to the brain.
A leading cause of the opioid epidemic is a large number of prescriptions being written for extended periods of time among surgery patients and patients suffering from chronic pain. In addition, some claim that the side effects of opioids outweigh the pain relief benefits. Using alternative pain management methods can help alleviate pain without causing drowsiness, nausea, lethargy, and constipation as do opioids. Educating the public on alternative treatments to cope with pain is necessary to reduce the number of people taking opioid medications for extended periods of time.