How to Manage Pain Safely and Effectively Without Opioids

Physical pain can be devastating, and unfortunately it’s a daily reality for many people. Effective pain management can help people can enjoy doing what matters to them most – and in many cases it can be accomplished without the use of opioids.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offer three ways you can safely manage your pain:

1. Track your pain and discuss it with your doctor.

Your doctor will want to know what type of pain you’re experiencing:

  • Acute pain usually starts suddenly and has a known cause, like an injury or surgery. It normally gets better as your body heals.
  • Chronic pain lasts three months or more and can be caused by a disease or condition, injury, medical treatment, inflammation, or even an unknown reason.

If it will help you remember, make notes listing the dates you experienced pain, how long it lasted, the location, and its impact on your daily life. Next, a conversation with your doctor can help you understand non-opioid pain management options. Tell the doctor about:

  • The pain you’ve been experiencing
  • Your health history
  • How your activities have been impacted by pain
  • What you hope to gain from managing your pain

Having detailed discussions with your doctor about your pain management and recovery goals can help your doctor identify the best treatment with the lowest level of risk.

2. Know your options for pain management without opioids.

There are many options for pain management that do not include prescription opioids. Some options may work better and have fewer risks and side effects than opioids. Depending on the type of pain you are experiencing, these options include:

  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol®) or ibuprofen (Advil®)
  • Topical ointments (for example, lidocaine)
  • Exercise therapy, including physical therapy
  • Interventional therapies (injections)
  • Exercise and weight loss
  • Medications for depression or for seizures – some antidepressants and anti-seizure medications have been shown to relieve chronic pain
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy – a psychological approach in which patients learn how to alter their physical, behavioral, and emotional responses to pain and stress
  • Other therapies such as acupuncture and massage

3. Develop a pain management plan with your doctor.

Now that you know some of the options that may help you meet your pain management goals, work with your doctor to make and follow a pain management plan. Here are some things to remember when making a pain management plan:

  • Be open to managing pain without opioids.
  • Be informed – ask your doctor about all the options available to you
  • Work with a specialist (such as an acupuncturist or a massage therapist) if recommended.
  • Follow up regularly with your doctor about your pain and whether your plan is working.
  • Understand that reducing or eliminating your pain can take time.

Prescription opioids can help manage pain, but they also carry a serious risk of abuse and overdose. Work with your doctor to find alternatives that will ease your pain and protect your well-being.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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