Many recovering addicts also struggle with chronic pain. According to some estimates, 34 to 40 percent of opiate addicts being treated with buprenorphine or methadone also suffer from a chronic pain problem. Most recovering addicts will also face acute pain issues at least once after entering recovery.
Recovering addicts and their doctors are understandably concerned about using narcotic painkillers. There’s a chance narcotic pain relief could lead to relapse in recovering addicts. However, failing to manage pain effectively can also lead to relapse in recovering addicts with chronic pain issues, as they may begin abusing substances in order to cope with their pain. Fortunately, there are many pain management options for people who are concerned that using narcotic painkillers could make them relapse and undo all the good they did at a residential drug rehab.
Non-Habit-Forming Pain Relievers
If you’re a recovering addict dealing with acute pain, your doctor will probably recommend potent non-habit-forming pain relievers. There are a number of pain relievers safe for recovering addicts. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), like aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen, can relieve your pain without the risk of relapse. Prescription forms of these drugs are much more powerful than the versions available without a prescription and give you the pain relief you need without the high you don’t.
In fact, non-narcotic pain relievers may be the best option for many conditions. Muscle and bone pain, for example, are often best treated using corticosteroids or NSAIDs, not opiate drugs. Nerve pain may be best treated by a tricyclic antidepressant like amitriptyline or an anticonvulsant like gabapentin.
If you are suffering from depression, anxiety or other mental health symptoms, these conditions could be exacerbating your physical pain. Pharmacological treatment for your psychiatric symptoms could make you feel better both mentally and physically.
Non-Pharmacological Pain Management Techniques
Medication isn’t the only option when it comes to treating pain, especially chronic pain. When you have an acute pain issue, it’s easy enough to take medication for a few days or weeks until the source of the pain is healed. When you suffer from a chronic pain problem, you need a long-term management strategy.
While medication can certainly be a part of your pain management strategy for chronic pain, non-pharmacological techniques can also help you gain control of your chronic pain. Of course, you can also apply non-pharmacological strategies for the management of your acute pain problems.
One way to manage musculoskeletal pain without drugs is by applying heat and cold. Moist heat, such as from a hot bath, a warm, wet towel or a hot water bottle is most effective, although a heating pad can also help. You can either apply heat or cold to the painful area, or alternate between the two for 15 minutes. Keep a towel between your skin and the source of heat or cold.
Relaxation techniques are also helpful. Progressive muscle relaxation is one such technique. It involves tensing and relaxing specific muscle groups in your body one at a time, until you have progressed through them all.
Additional non-pharmacological pain management techniques include biofeedback, which teaches you to control bodily functions that are normally beyond your conscious awareness. Exercise can also help ease your pain, because it stimulates the release of endorphins. You should speak with a physical therapist about your exercise plan. You will need to develop a fitness plan that takes your limitations into account and doesn’t worsen your condition.
Many people have found pain relief through acupuncture, with involves inserting fine needles into the skin. Meditation, hypnotherapy and even cognitive behavioral therapy can also help you cope with ongoing pain. You can talk to a chronic pain specialist about your pain and develop a plan that works for you.
If you’re a recovering addict, you may be concerned about using potentially addictive painkillers to manage acute or chronic pain. However, there are many non-habit-forming pharmacological options that recovering addicts can safely use for pain relief, with no fear of relapse. You can also benefit from non-pharmacological pain management techniques, like exercise, acupuncture, relaxation therapies, biofeedback and hypnotherapy. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different pain management techniques. You’ll soon find that being in recovery from addiction is no obstacle to effective pain management.