Surprising Alternatives to Prescription Painkillers

Surprising Alternatives to Prescription Painkillers

It’s undeniable that medical science has generated some highly effective painkilling drugs, but the use of some of these drugs has downsides. They are often made up of serious chemicals that can cause rough side effects, and many, especially opioids, are highly addictive, too.

There are substances and health practices available that can be used to relieve pain instead, or as supplements to prescription painkillers you have found success with. Read on to learn a little more about them.

Stretching and Motion

The human body is designed to move and keeping yourself moving purposefully can have strong therapeutic effects. Especially helpful are stretching and body kinesthetics as a way to help reduce pain in the body.

The simple act of stretching can provide targeted pain relief in many muscle groups. Stretching routines are also not overly time-consuming and can be pretty fun if you do it in groups or combine it with music or a podcast. Stretching can do a lot to manage pain; one study emphasizes the importance of physical activity and the health benefits it can provide. For example, some exercises and stretches relieve sciatica pain.

One of the most common ways we see stretching used to handle pain? Yoga. Yoga can provide relief for osteoporosis symptoms. There is also evidence to suggest that yoga can also help with other chronic pain issues. Of course, individual cases may vary, but physical activity appears to be quite helpful in pain management. Other painful conditions that could benefit from a morning yoga routine include fibromyalgia, arthritis, and lower back pain.

Back pain is one of the most common chronic pain conditions out there. One form of stretching, Inversion therapy, is a great option if you are dealing with back pain. According to the American Chiropractic Association, about 31 million Americans experience lower back pain at any given time. Further, estimates are that up to 80% of the population will experience back pain at some point in their lives. Inversion therapy is a technique where you suspend yourself upside down. The inversion releases pressure on the spine and stretches the back. Because of our upright postures, our spines, especially in the lower back area, constantly support a great deal of weight. Inversion therapy is one way to reduce the pain and inflammation of day-to-day life on the spine.

Massage Your Pain Away

Massage can be one way to help regulate pain. The intricate connections of the body mean that massaging tissues in one location can provide relief in associated areas. Ancient cultures used massage to deal with pain for thousands of years, and we can still use massage today. In some cases, massage can literally be considered a healing touch.

For example, one method is through trigger point massages. These massages target specific types of pain as well. For instance, in the case of fibromyalgia, the study, ‘Benefits of Massage-Myofascial Release Therapy on Pain, Anxiety, Quality of Sleep, Depression, and Quality of Life in Patients with Fibromyalgia’ suggested that the release of fascial restrictions through massage works as a complementary therapy to symptoms of fibromyalgia. Such focused massages can reduce fatigue, inflammation, encourage recovery, and increase circulation. Trigger point massage is especially complimentary to exercise, as it can help maintain blood flow and continue the benefits of stretching hours after a workout.

While not quite massage, but of the same lines of thought, acupuncture can prove helpful for chronic pain and a solid alternative to prescription painkillers. A 2015 paper published in Arch Intern Med discusses that “Many current guidelines recommend acupuncture in specific circumstances for back pain or headache. For instance, the American College of Physicians’ guidelines recommends acupuncture as one of several options, such as manual therapy or exercise, for patients with back pain.” While the paper suggests the need for more study, at least some medical journals recognize there is something to pain management through acupuncture. Specifically, studies need to identify better which patients would benefit the most from acupuncture treatment. Currently, acupuncture is known primarily for the treatment of headaches and back pain.

Like any alternative to prescription pain medication, the demands of people’s bodies vary. Still, given the number of non-medicated alternatives involving motion and massage, most people have viable options. So before reaching for a bottle of prescription painkillers, perhaps some stretching and massage may be in order? However, there are further options in pain reduction to consider, such as diet and alternative therapies. Combinations of these therapies and self-care treatments show great promise in reducing pain.

Healthy Choices and Alternative Therapies

Do you consider what you eat when you deal with pain? Because your diet can have a significant impact on how your body handles it. Since pain is often caused by inflammation, foods that can prevent such inflammation can help fight or reduce pain when it occurs. But what foods should you be eating if you are trying to reduce chronic pain?

While the effects of diet on inflammation are still not completely understood, there is a suggestion that a deficiency in certain nutrients may be a factor. Specifically, nutrients such as zinc, selenium, iron, folic acid, and vitamins A, B6, C, and E seem particularly important. Antioxidants like polyphenols seem to have anti-inflammatory effects as well. Some common foods that can help provide these micronutrients are fruits, leafy greens, nuts, beans, and whole grains. The omega-3 fatty acids in olive oil and fatty fish like salmon also show promise. Eating foods that provide these specific nutrients is a great way to support your overall health and wellness as well as address pain.

Some supplements can also assist in pain reduction. Many of the nutrients found in an inflammation-reduction diet can also be found over-the-counter. These natural supplements include lavender, rosemary, peppermint, eucalyptus cloves, capsaicin, ginger, and turmeric. Web MD is pretty helpful in figuring out what to take, given the type of pain. For example, capsaicin is particularly useful for back and joint pain. A little spicy food may help with chronic pain, just be sure not to go too crazy with it.

Alternative Therapies

There is a whole range of non-opioid, non-prescription therapies out there for pain. While not every solution works for every person, you may be surprised by what some alternatives can do for you. Especially if these alternatives are used in conjunction with diet and targeted exercise.

What may seem like something out of a comic book or a magic show, hypnosis does have some merit. Studies indicate that hypnosis can reduce pain in a series of conditions, such as arthritis and cancer pain. While it is not known how much of an effect it has on actual inflammation, it does seem like it aids in reducing the perception of pain.

Another option that may be surprising involves electricity. Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) uses mild electrical current to treat pain. One review of TENS treatments suggested that high-intensity application was effective in relieving chronic pain. In principle, the localized electrical current is similar to acupuncture because it relies on targeted stimulation of problem spots.

Finally, heat and cold therapies (thermotherapy and cryotherapy) also can help manage pain. Hot and cold compresses in childhood are a great example of these treatments at a fundamental level. Heat can dilate blood vessels, resulting in blood circulation, whereas cold therapy does the opposite. The control of blood flow has a great deal of influence on pain caused by inflammation.

Marijuana-based Treatment

Cannabis is another alternative to prescription painkillers and one that is rapidly becoming widespread among Americans as the legal status changes state to state.

Chemicals extracted from cannabis, called cannabinoids, have become a significant market in pain management. Common ones you may know of already are THC and CBD. These cannabinoids bind to sites in the body that receive these chemicals, and they can have several powerful effects, such as inflammation reduction. If someone wants the effects of THC and CBD but doesn’t want to smoke or ingest marijuana itself, they have the option of tinctures and salves.

Like any alternative treatment, it is crucial to know how to best take advantage of it. As far as how to dose when it comes to CBD, a CBD dosing guide is a huge help.

However, rules vary from state to state, so the legality of medical marijuana in your part of the US is vital to keep in mind. For states that offer medical marijuana as an option, some form of identification and certification is necessary. One way to ensure access to marijuana is to register for a medical marijuana card online. Unsure if medicinal marijuana is right for you? Consult a thorough introduction to medical cannabis.

Lifestyle Changes

Minor changes to your daily routine or lifestyle can reap huge benefits when it comes to pain management. The Mayo Clinic has a lot to say on the subject. Sleep, exercise, and stress management are ways to reduce the power of chronic pain and skip prescription painkillers.

Sleep, for example, is the body’s natural process to heal. While pain can sometimes prevent sleep, sleep is imperative to the healing process and shouldn’t be overlooked. Exercise? The endorphins released by a workout are a natural source of pain management. Regarding stress management, it helps by trying to counter the stress that pain inflicts. Natural responses to stress, like gritting teeth, can just cause more pain depending on where the pain is.

Arthritis pain is one of the more common chronic pains out there. However, psychological changes may influence arthritis pain management. Here, some things can help that you may not expect, such as psychological coping strategies for persistent pain.