Every day, thousands of Americans are struggling with an addiction to painkillers and opiates. Most of these people thought that this would never happen to them. Most of these people were originally prescribed these painkillers by a doctor for pain management. Many of these people actually do suffer from chronic pain and have now found themselves in a pickle. So what happens when these people want to get sober and no longer use these medications?
For people with chronic pain, pain management in sobriety can be tricky. Especially after someone has relied on them for so long, it just seems like nothing else works. So the obvious first step in learning to manage the pain without painkillers is to get rid of the painkillers.
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Non Addictive Medications: There are a plethora of other types of medication on the market that is both non-opioid, and non-habit-forming. Granted, they may not be as potent as the addictive painkillers, but for someone who is sick and tired and being addicted to their painkillers, they will work just fine to start.
Working a Program: As someone who suffers from chronic back pain, let me be the first to point out, that working a 12 step program WILL NOT reduce the amount of pain. However, working a program allows myself and others, to continue on with sobriety in spite of that pain. There were many moments in my early sobriety that I would have easily just relapsed if I didn’t have sober supports around to point out the futility and selfishness of it. I am now coming up on 2 years, haven’t touched a painkiller that whole time, and am learning to navigate better routes for pain management.
Pain Management Without Drugs
The only thing I had to change, was pretty much everything from my using days. I started trying new things to help with the pain, and unless I mess up my form deadlifting, or slip and fall on ice, I’m usually pretty alright. Here’s how I learned that pain management is possible without painkillers.
- Yoga: Now before you roll your eyes, bear with me. There are dozens of different types of yoga, for everywhere along the spectrum of ability. For example, to start, I went into the direction of restorative yoga. As I progressed and became more flexible and in shape, I got into the harder forms that were still a gentle way to become fit, learn to meditate, and learn to put my mind over my body.
- Eating Healthy: When we fuel our body with fats, sugars, carbs, caffeine, and energy drinks without exercising them off, we are bound for trouble. Crappy foods lead to inflamed muscles and joints, fatigue, digestive issues, weight gain (not good for those same inflamed joints) and just an overall constant feeling of lethargy. Eating foods that are good for us, keeps our organs, muscles, blood flow, and heart rate in tip-top shape, which will help prevent flare-ups of muscle pains and inflammation.
- Exercise: This doesn’t just mean pumping weights at the gym, ESPECIALLY if your chronic pain makes it pretty much impossible to do so. However, it is important to do some sort of exercise every day, as it increases endorphins, boosts blood flow and circulation to the painful areas, creates energy, decreases depression, and reduces fatigue. Try some of these gentle forms of exercise daily to help with pain management.
- Light Walking
- An Elliptical or bicycle machine
- Everyday Activities (gardening, house cleaning, walking the dog, etc)
- Acupuncture: This thousand-year-old practice of using pressure points in the body has been well known to help ease a variety of ailments. Everything from digestive issues to pain management can be focused on in just one session of acupuncture. Not to mention, it is very relaxing and can be covered by some insurance plans!
- Physical Therapy: Many of the chronic pain management issues most people suffer from an injury that occurred in their past. Physical therapy is a great way for a person to receive professional treatment to help cure the pain site permanently. Not to mention, they also teach methods to properly stretch and what sort of exercises to do at home.
- Massage: If you suffer from muscle or tendon pain, massages can be a little painful at first. However, once some progress starts to get made, the benefits are astounding. They can increase blood flow, relaxation of the muscles and mind, and when done in conjunction with these other techniques, they can promote long-lasting healing.
- Cryotherapy: Cold Therapy is now being performed all over the country and is similar to taking ice baths or using a cold compress on a sprain, sore muscle, or another injury. They have facilities that are essentially the opposite of a sauna, where people immerse their bodies in a very low-temperature machine that reduces all inflammation and pain. My mother has fibromyalgia and swears by her weekly cryotherapy visits.
- Herbal Remedies: Before the boom of western medicine, people have been using herbs to treat every ailment out there, which, is actually where painkillers originated from. However, using supplements can often be an excellent and healthy way to ease muscle and joint point. For example, fish oil, turmeric, and vitamin D have been known to reduce inflammation. Ginger helps with digestive issues if you are someone who struggles with Crohn’s. Melatonin, Chamomile, and Ashwagarma are all natural sedatives that can aid in relaxation and sleep, and none of these herbs are dangerous or habit forming!
For people who struggle with pain management and want to get off of painkillers, there are countless ways to do so. It is a real option, even though it might seem scary at first. Yes, it will take a little more willingness and a little more work, but in the end, adding any of these natural and healthy tools into your life will not only help you ease the pain but will also help you feel healthier overall.
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