Community Health Alliance is committed to helping you identify safe, effective ways to manage chronic pain. The second installment of our year-long series designed to increase awareness about the danger associated with long-term opiate use in chronic pain management will focus on how opioids affect the body.
Opioids attach to receptors in the brain, spinal cord and many other parts of the body. Once attached, the transmission of pain signals is slowed, not blocked entirely. Opioid use may also cause depressed respiration (slowed breathing) which can affect the amount of oxygen that reaches the brain. Long-term use may also lead to drug tolerance requiring higher doses of the medication and routine sensations being interpreted as pain – essentially the opiates cause more pain (1). Every day 44 people in the U.S. die from overdose of prescription painkillers… and many more become addicted (3).
Those experiencing chronic pain can usually get substantial relief by learning new skills such as relaxation and mild stretching exercises (with the approval of your provider). Take responsibility for learning the skills needed to reduce your own suffering. Multidisciplinary pain programs and the American Chronic Pain Association (2) teach many specific techniques that relieve discomfort. Mastering them will allow you to soothe yourself and minimize the things that often make pain worse: stress, inactivity, uncertainty, feeling powerless, being out of shape, boredom, fear, anger—all the normal human reactions to pain and life disruptions. Combining several methods often has the best result.
If your life is still on hold and your pain level remains high after months of opioid use, it’s probably time to think about changing treatments. Talk with your provider about reducing or stopping opioid use. If you are experiencing a new pain in your lower back, please follow your provider’s advice about managing your low back pain before seeking additional diagnostic tests and avoid unnecessary cost, time and risk to your health. Your provider may be able to prescribe other treatments with fewer side effects to help you manage the pain while you learn the self-care approaches that will help you get your life back on track.
1 http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/prescription-drugs/ chronic-pain-treatment-addiction
2 http://www.theacpa.org/uploads/documents/ACPA_Resource_ Guide_2015_Final%20edited%20(3).pdf
This information is not intended to provide medical advice and is for informational purposes only. Further, the information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Individuals should always seek advice of their health care professional with any questions regarding a specific medical condition or treatment