Looking Beyond Opioids for Chronic Pain

Taking an active role in your pain care will help you need fewer doctors & pills 

Posted Aug 28, 2016 

laflor/iStock
Source: laflor/iStock

More than 100 million Americans are living with ongoing pain and looking for solutions. Earlier this year the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommended prescribers limit opioids for most people with chronic pain, mainly because the data show they don’t work well long-term. Opioids also carry risks for accidental overdose, worsening pain, sleep problems, and hormone changes, so it’s always good to minimize use to reduce risks. With the various national and state restrictions on opioids, doctors, prescribers and patients alike may be wondering: so what now for chronic pain?article continues after advertisement

Healthcare providers and patients have been looking—sometimes desperately—for accessible, low-cost, non-opioid solutions for chronic pain. Here are some tips to help get you started.

(1) Understand that pain doesn’t just happen to you. More than ever, it’s important for patients and healthcare providers to understand that pain isn’t something that just “happens.” If you have chronic pain, you have a real medical condition. And still—on a daily basis you are participating with your pain, and have a role in whether your pain gets better or worse. 

(2) Learn about the role of psychology in pain—and harness its power! How much you suffer from pain is strongly influenced by your thoughts, emotions, daily choices, exercise, activity level, sleep, and stress—to name just a few factors. Virtually all of these factors fall under the broad umbrella of psychology; treatments that target these factors are often referred to as ‘behavioral medicine’.

efks/iStock

Source: efks/iStock

You can learn evidence-based behavioral medicine skills to help ensure your daily choices are focused on keeping your pain low. Keeping your pain low requires you to take an active role in your care, leads you to feel better and need less medication. A wonderful pathway to reducing opioid prescriptions is empowering yourself with the right information to self-treat your pain—and live a better life.

(3) Avoid the trap of thinking that behavioral medicine will not work for you because you have a serious medical diagnosis. While applying behavioral medicine will not make your medical condition simply disappear, you can greatly reduce the its impact on your comfort and quality of life. By regularly applying skills that serve to calm your nervous system, you will lessen your pain and related distress thereby freeing up energy to focus on doing more of the things you love.article continues after advertisement

(4) Take advantage of existing, targeted resources. Healthcare providers have lacked critical access to packaged information that they can hand out to their patients at point-of-care—information that will steer them towards understanding how to engage in their own care and cultivate their power to control pain. Similarly, many people with chronic pain are unsure about best resources. Here are recommended resources for healthcare providers, people living with chronic pain, and family members:

  • The American Chronic Pain Association (ACPA) (lists events, local support groups, pain management toolkits, resources, educational videos, mobile apps) https://theacpa.org/
  • The Pain Toolkit (pain self-management website with tip sheets, handouts, mobile apps) http://www.paintoolkit.org/
  • The Opioid-Free Pain Relief Kit: 10 Simple Steps to Ease Your Pain © 2016 by Beth Darnall, PhD (written in simple language that is easy to read, this practical book helps patients understand how to help themselves feel better—by applying skills that reduce pain processing in the nervous system. Comes with a binaural pain relief audio CD). http://bethdarnall.com/
  • The Pain Survival Guide a book by Winter and Turk.
  • The Chronic Pain Self-Management Guide by Sandra LeFort
Beth Darnall PhD

Link to original article: https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/less-pain-fewer-pills/201608/looking-beyond-opioids-chronic-pain

Tags: Centers for Disease Control, (CDC), recommended prescribers, limit opioids, chronic pain, accidental overdose, worsening pain, sleep problems, hormone changes, psychology, thoughts, emotions, daily choices, exercise, activity level, sleep, stress

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