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Alternatives to Opioids: Managing Pain

Millions of Americans who suffer from pain each year seek out relief for it. Many rely on prescription opioids to help them get relief. Their pain may emanate from an accident, injury, or a sports-related cause. They may deal with chronic pain such as headaches or pain related to the back, hips, knees, or other areas. Others derive benefits from opioids for temporary moderate to severe pain. While these medications offer pain relief needed by many, there are many alternatives to opioids. While prescription treatments have their place, people often don’t understand the vast array of options available for pain relief. When talking to their doctor about pain-relieving options, it’s imperative to discuss all available choices. Also important is understanding what the opioid epidemic is about and its resulting decline.

The Evolution of the U.S. Opioid Epidemic

The United States developed an opioid epidemic during the early 2000s. Despite reassurances from pharmaceutical companies in the late 1990s that opioid addiction was not a risk, widespread misuse and abuse of opioids swept the country. In 2017, the Department of Health and Human Services declared opioid addiction a public health emergency.

The Department allocated nearly $900 million dollars towards addressing the epidemic. The money went towards treatment and recovery services, training first responders, and providing overdose-reversing drugs. Some states began enacting legislation to try to curb the number of opioid prescriptions being written. 

Many physicians began a conscious effort to reduce the number of prescriptions they wrote. Focus on non-opioid alternatives began in an earnest effort to help alleviate the crisis of addiction to opioids. 

The Number of Opioid Prescriptions Has Decreased Over the Past Decade

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that over 153 million prescriptions for opioids were written in 2019. The number of prescriptions for opioids has decreased annually starting in 2012 when over 255 million were written. The opioid medications included in the report are:

  • Codeine
  • Oxycodone
  • Hydrocodone
  • Hydromorphone
  • Fentanyl
  • Tramadol
  • Morphine
  • Methadone
  • Oxymorphone
  • Propoxyphene
  • Buprenorphine
  • Tapentadol

Alternatives to Opioids to Treat Pain

Non-opioid pain relievers: Some people find that the most common alternatives to opioids include non-opioid prescription or over-the-counter medications that prove adequate to address their pain. These options include steroids, nerve pain medications, aspirin, acetaminophen, and ibuprofen. A person who might initially have required an opioid-related pain reliever may find that an alternative option works now. 

Topical Medications: These include creams, ointments, gels, lotions, foams, sprays, and patches. These topical meds are applied directly to the source of pain. They can reduce pain levels or numb the area to block all pain temporarily.

Physical therapy: Many physical therapy programs are designed to address and reduce pain in patients. These can include activities revolving around exercise, deep-muscle massage, whirlpools, and ultrasounds. 

Nerve blocks: Doctors can use X-ray imaging to inject medications that reduce or block pain in a person’s body. This can assist with muscle spasms or nerve pain. 

Radio waves: A needle is inserted near the nerve that causes the pain. Radio waves then burn the nerve in order to stop the pain signal. 

Pain pumps: Spinal drug pumps can offer pain relief to severe cases that do not respond to other options. A surgeon implants a pump that delivers pain medication to the spinal cord. This allows a patient to control the amount of medication they receive. It has proven helpful for those who have nerve pain or who experience serious side effects with oral medications. 

Surgery: While surgery may not be anyone’s first choice, many options do exist. A doctor who specializes in pain management can determine if a patient qualifies for a surgical procedure designed to impact their pain levels.

Non-Medical Alternatives for Pain Management

Exploring forms of medical and medication intervention as a form of non-opioid alternatives proves helpful. Many people find helpful resources outside this realm. Options to consider include:

Acupuncture: Acupuncture is a form of Chinese medicine that involves inserting thin needles into pressure points of the body. Most people report little to no discomfort from insertion and removal of the needles. Receiving regular acupuncture treatments can result in a reduction or loss of pain. It also provides a calming effect for the daily mood of many recipients. 

Massage therapy: A massage therapist can use their skills to address pain in their clients. They manually manipulate parts of the body, including muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Many athletes and exercise fanatics use massage therapy to help manage and reduce pain. Regular appointments have also proven beneficial for some people dealing with chronic pain.

Talk Therapy: One option for non-opioid alternatives that is sometimes overlooked involves sessions with a therapist. Some licensed counselors specialize in treating clients who deal with chronic pain. Therapy appointments give a person a regular outlet for their emotions. This type of therapist understands how to help people manage their expectations and living with pain. 

Opioid Addiction Treatment in California

Millions of Americans have dealt with the deadly reality of opioid addiction. But, there are healthy alternatives to opioids if you are struggling with pain. If you need help learning to embrace recovery, we have a program designed to help. Our gender-specific sober living houses in the Los Angeles area offer round-the-clock support for young adults. 


Reach out to us at Riviera Recovery right now. We can help ease you into a sober life

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