Chronic pain is a serious problem that affects millions of people each year in the United States alone. What’s worse, one of the most popular treatments for chronic pain — prescription opioids — has become its own unique health problem. According to the CDC, as many as 25% of people receiving prescription opioid therapy struggle with addiction, increasing the risk of misuse, overdose and even death.
Fortunately, for people dealing with chronic pain, there are many options for managing pain without the need for prescription painkillers. From lifestyle changes to interventional pain management, exploring the full range of non-pharmaceutical therapies can help anyone overcome debilitating symptoms and get their life back.
What Causes Chronic Pain?
Chronic pain describes any persistent and painful symptoms that last for an extended period of time. Exact time frames can vary, but many doctors describe chronic pain as lasting longer than three months or recurring multiple times within at least a one year period.
There are wide range of underlying causes for chronic pain, including:
- Degenerative conditions, such as arthritis or degenerative disc disease
- Spine conditions, such as herniated discs
- Neuropathy caused by diseases such as diabetes
- Cancer pain
- Injuries, such as torn ligaments or muscle strains
- Headaches or migraines
- Chronic conditions such as fibromyalgia
In some cases, doctors may not be able to identify the exact cause of pain or successfully treat the underlying condition, leading to symptoms becoming long-term and debilitating. One of the first steps in successfully treating chronic pain is to receive a clear diagnosis for the causes.
Try these non-pharmaceutical pain management treatments
Although the first impulse when dealing with pain may be to reach for the pills, whether prescription or over-the-counter, there are many other effective methods for addressing chronic pain.
1. Lifestyle Steps: Anti-inflammatory Diet and Regular Exercise
Although changing your diet and getting more exercise may not magically cure chronic pain, many patients are surprised at how much of a positive impact they can have. For example, committing to an anti-inflammatory diet that reduces processed sugars and grains and emphasizes unsaturated fats and pain-reducing ingredients such as turmeric can have a tangible effect on how the body processes and interprets pain signals.
Exercise also has potential pain management benefits, including improving blood flow, nerve function and muscle performance. Even just 20 to 30 minutes a day of a low-impact exercise such as walking can help people better deal with pain according to studies.
2. Physical Therapy
Although you may associate it with recovering from an accident or surgical procedure, physical therapy can help with many more conditions, including chronic pain. Physical therapists can perform a detailed assessment of movement and posture to help patients understand how certain activities and positions may be contributing to pain.
Through active and passive techniques, including manual therapies and strengthening exercises, therapists can isolate and relieve areas that are sources of pain. Strengthening exercises can help to stabilize the body and take pressure off of compressed nerves, while manual therapies can help to break up bundles of painful tissue and improve nerve function.
3. Interventional Pain Management
Interventional pain management is a multidisciplinary approach to treating chronic pain that can include a broad range of non-pharmaceutical techniques. It is often used in conjunction with physical therapy and is based on a thorough medical evaluation. Specific pain management interventions can include:
The right techniques can vary on a case by case basis depending on the underlying cause of chronic pain. Often, the most effective plans consist of a combination of lifestyle changes, physical therapy, and interventional pain management.
4. Minimally Invasive Surgery
Although surgery is typically seen as a last-resort treatment for chronic pain, and may not be able to treat every condition, it can be highly effective for patients who are candidates and have exhausted other options. For example, people dealing with chronic back pain may be able to benefit from minimally invasive, outpatient spine surgery that relieves pressure on spinal nerves by carefully removing displaced disc material or a bone spur. Compared to traditional approaches, minimally invasive techniques can be associated with a shorter and less painful recovery while helping patients achieve long-term pain relief.
Reach Out to Physician Partners of America for Pain Management Options
Physician Partners of America is committed to personalized, compassionate care to help anyone get their life back from pain. We work with patients one-on-one to ensure they get long-lasting relief through the right combination of treatment. If you have been experiencing pain with little to no relief, contact us today to find a pain management specialist who can help you thrive.