Opioids are some of the most effective painkilling substances known to man, but unfortunately these substances are highly addictive and destructive when abused. The United States currently faces an ongoing epidemic of opioid overdoses and deaths from opioid abuse, and many of the victims do not fit the typical profile of an opioid addict. Many of these people developed addictions to their painkillers after suffering sports-related injuries, injuries from car accidents, and after necessary surgeries. It is essential for anyone taking opioid medications to understand the extreme risks of these drugs and consider opioid alternatives like holistic treatments.
Potential Benefits Of Holistic Pain Management
Many Americans look at holistic pain management with understandable scrutiny; therapies like massage, acupuncture, and light therapy may seem effective in only limited capacities, but the reality is that these treatments can be highly effective and valuable alternatives to opioid medications for various types of pain.
The most important benefit of holistic pain management methods is there is no risk of addiction. Holistic therapy does not require consuming any type of drug or medication for the therapy to work. Many holistic treatments use therapeutic techniques with thousands of years of history behind them, such as acupuncture, a staple of Eastern medicine for thousands of years.
Exercise And Physical Therapy
Substance abuse takes a heavy toll on the body and many people in rehab participate in various types of physical therapy and exercise therapy to get their bodies better prepared to handle the rigors of sober living. Similarly, some people who struggle with certain kinds of chronic pain may benefit from individualized exercise plans and ongoing physical therapy.
Exercise releases endorphins, a natural pain-fighting substance produced in the body in response to stress. Regular endorphin release can significantly reduce the occurrence and severity of pain symptoms. However, some types of pain may prevent extensive exercise, or may limit an individual’s exercising options for a time.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Many people do not understand the links between psychological health and physical pain. Some psychological conditions like depression can cause physical symptoms to manifest like poor immune system functioning, greater levels of inflammation, and overall higher pain intensity. Cognitive behavioral therapy exists to analyze a patient’s feelings and struggles with mental illness and help the patient process them more safely and effectively.
Studies have shown positive results in patients who underwent cognitive behavioral therapy for mental health issues causing physical pain symptoms, but some people with physical symptoms and no obvious mental health issues or official diagnoses may also benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy. For example, a 12-week cognitive behavioral therapy study reported that the program improved pain symptoms in fibromyalgia patients.
Acupuncture is a long-standing practice in Eastern medicine, involving the use of dozens of specialized pins that when placed on specific parts of a patient’s body cause the muscles to relax, loosening the body and reducing inflammation. Acupuncture patients report a wide range of benefits beyond less pain, including higher energy levels, more flexibility, and an easier time getting out of bed in the morning. Most people who undergo acupuncture treatments do so for an extended time with sessions every few weeks, or more frequently for those with severe chronic pain symptoms.
Stress Management Techniques
Everyone has unique physiological responses to stress, and stress can easily cause physical pain symptoms or exacerbate existing pain symptoms. Various holistic exercises can help an individual manage pain symptoms without the use of potentially dangerous medications like opioid painkillers. Meditation, mindfulness exercises, and various other stress-relief therapies can improve physical pain symptoms of stress and eventually help a person process his or her daily stress in more constructive ways.
Poor diet leads to immune system decline and higher susceptibility to some types of pain. Healthier eating habits may not necessarily stop pain symptoms or reduce pain, but making more consistent healthy eating choices can improve the way the body handles pain and help prevent injuries from physical stress. During substance abuse treatment, most new patients receive nutritional therapy, vitamin replacement therapy, and other diet-focused support to improve overall health after suffering from malnutrition, dehydration, and infectious diseases from prolonged substance abuse.
Massages are not just a great way to relax after a stressful week at work; many people who struggle with chronic pain report that their pain symptoms subside following massage sessions. A professional massage can loosen stressed muscles, reduce inflammation, and promote healthier blood flow to injured parts of the body to speed the healing process. Massage also often plays a role in physical therapy and ongoing rehabilitation for acute injury victims.
Over-The-Counter Pain Medications
Common over-the-counter pain medications available without a prescription can offer a significant amount of pain relief, especially when used responsibly and in conjunction with holistic therapies like massage, acupuncture, and physical therapy. Acetaminophen, commonly sold under the brand name Tylenol, is actually a first-line treatment according to the American College of Rheumatology. These non-opioid painkillers are tremendously effective at treating pain without the risk of addiction that opioid medications present. However, prolonged consistent use of Tylenol or other over-the-counter pain medications may pose problems for internal organ function in some individuals.