Chronic pain is a huge issue for millions of people, and what we, unfortunately, see all too often is that either treatment can contribute to addiction, or people in recovery don’t get the help they need for their pain.
Neither has to be your reality. There are ways you can go about staying sober with chronic pain, including alternative treatment options.
It’s typical to experience aches and strains as a response to an injury. If you’re hurt, signals move up from the area that’s injured and then to your brain. As our injuries heal, then we experience less severe pain. When you’re fully healed, the pain should go away altogether. Chronic pain is different.
When you have chronic pain, your body sends these pain signals to your brain even once an injury heals. You might struggle for weeks or years. It can impact mobility, strength, and flexibility. It’s tough to do daily tasks when you’re dealing with this type of limiting pain. In a medical sense, chronic pain lasts for at least 12 weeks. It can be steady, but it can also come and go, and there’s usually no reason you can identify the patterns the pain follows.
We estimate that more than 1.5 billion people worldwide have this issue, and it’s the most common cause of long-term disability in the U.S. It affects around 100 million Americans. While you certainly aren’t alone, treatment can be harder to deal with if you’re in recovery from addiction and prefer staying sober with chronic pain.
Chronic Conditions and Addiction
There are potential relationships between conventional treatments for recurring pain and substance use disorder. For example, doctors prescribe opioids as treatment, but they’re also highly addictive. If you start taking opioids for a legitimate health condition and follow dosage instructions, you can still develop opioid addiction and dependence.
Much of the impact of the opioid epidemic has stemmed from medical patients. Often, along with becoming addicted to their prescription medicines, someone using opioids might move to illegal drugs, which tend to be cheaper and easier to get. There might also be another link between pain and addiction. If you deal with recurring pain, it can affect every part of your life. That can lead you to use substances not only to deal with the pain itself but to self-medicate how you might be feeling.
Some of the signs of addiction can include:
- A loss of control over your use of the drug; for example, you might take a higher dose than what a doctor prescribes you, or you could run out of your medicine early.
- Compulsive use is a hallmark of addiction. You may focus entirely on getting more pain medicine or using it.
- If you develop negative side effects or adverse effects of using a drug on your life, but you keep using it, that can be a sign of addiction.
- Cravings for opioids or other substances can be a sign of an addiction.
Chronic Pain Treatment
If you notice the signs above in yourself, you should consider talking to an addiction treatment specialist. If you’ve already gone through a treatment plan but you’re worried about maintaining your sobriety while also dealing with your pain, there are options available to you. Talk to your doctor about your sobriety, and you can work with them to create a pain management plan for staying sober with chronic pain. Outside of opioids, traditional treatments can include:
- Over-the-counter pain medicines
- Adjuvant pain relievers like anticonvulsants and antidepressants
- Specific medical procedures, such as a nerve block or electrical stimulation
- Surgery to correct injuries that didn’t heal correctly
- Lifestyle changes
- Physical therapy
A big part of staying sober with chronic pain relies on having a lifestyle that’s healthy overall. Our levels of physical pain are often associated with our emotional pain. When you work to build healthy coping skills, then you might experience less physical pain as a result; general tips include:
- Take good care of your physical health, meaning exercise as much as you can, get enough sleep, and maintain a healthy diet.
- Do things you enjoy. Maybe you spend time with friends, for example, or do a hobby that you like. You might tend to self-isolate, but that can make physical and psychological symptoms worse.
- Develop a robust support system. Rely on friends and family to be there for you, whether you need help getting something done or even just someone to talk to.
Alternative Treatment Options
Along with just generally working to have a healthy lifestyle, staying sober with chronic pain can also be easier if you rely on alternative treatment options. Some potential alternative treatment options for pain to try include:
- Acupuncture: Even though this isn’t typically part of western medicine, more doctors are starting to embrace it. Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese practice. It uses fine needles that are put into different points on your body to help treat your pain. It doesn’t hurt, and the needles can be left in for up to 40 minutes. They help with the healing process, and people often find there are emotional and mental benefits that come with regular acupuncture.
- Supplements and herbal medicine: Some people find that supplements and herbal remedies like omega-3 fatty acids and glucosamine help. Some supplements can interact with other medications or have side effects, so you should talk to your doctor before trying any alternative medicine.
- Massage: Regular massage therapy is one of the great relaxation techniques, and studies show it helps with depression, anxiety, and reduces stress. Massage therapy can alleviate inflammation, and it’s something that you might find you enjoy as part of your strategy.
- Mind-body techniques: Addiction treatment programs often use mind/body techniques throughout your recovery. Mind-body treatments include meditation and mindfulness meditation. You can learn how to clear your mind as a way to manage the stress and physical symptoms you’re experiencing.
- Yoga: Exercise can be challenging, but yoga is gentle and adaptable, so it could be perfect for improving your quality of life and helping you stay sober.
- Biofeedback: This is an interesting approach to pain management. With biofeedback, you learn how to change the physiological processes of your body to better your health.
If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction, we encourage you to contact our team at Opus Health. We have alternative treatment options to help make staying sober with chronic pain a manageable goal. You don’t have to fight this battle alone; call us today for help.