Chronic pain is an unfortunate reality that affects all too many people, and finding respite and reprieve from it as quickly as possible is often the name of the game. Quite frankly, it’s understandable. Who wants to wait for relief?
Therein lies the rub. While pain medications may do the job quickly, they come with a host of potential issues to at least be aware of.
The obvious warning here is about opioids. The dangers of those prescription meds have been brought into stark relief and to the forefront with the ongoing opioid epidemic
gripping the United States. The care, attention and medical supervision those require can’t be stressed enough.
What to make of the non-prescription meds that are out there? The ones you can walk into the local convenience store and pick up over-the-counter without a note from the doctor. We tend to think because access is so easy, they’re inherently safe. That logic is fairly sound but potential issues and risks arise with long-term use.
Let’s break it down by the two main types:
Non-steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)
This is where your Ibuprofen, Advil, Aleve, Motrin, Aspirin and others land as well as prescription-strength varieties. The types of meds you’d take for things like pain, muscle aches and inflammation. Long-term uses for chronic pain or otherwise has been linked to ulcers, stomach bleeding, kidney problems, high blood pressure and increased risk for heart attack or stroke.
And those can feasibly happen while taking just the recommended dosage
with risk increasing with the presence of the other health issues and increasing with age. Those aged 65 or older, for example, have double the risk of acute kidney injury in the 30 days following use.
Tylenol and paracetamol are the most well-known types of acetaminophen. These drugs are among the most widely taken in the world and are good for pain and fever but don’t have the same anti-inflammatory properties as NSAIDs.
The potential drawback with larger doses, depending on the degree of pain, and long-term use is liver damage. According to Harvard Medical School
, doses that are close to or above the 4,000 mg daily can be toxic to the liver so caution is advised.
First of all, the idea here is not to cause panic or vilify medicine. The OTC medications mentioned and even opioids serve a very real and necessary purpose in the mitigation of pain. The point is the be aware of the potential long-term effects and with chronic pain, that’s something that needs to be considered.
By definition, chronic pain is an ongoing experience and not just a headache or some temporary soreness that a couple of Advil can get you through.
Fortunately, there are many pill-free treatments available. Devices like splints and braces keep joints from moving and relieve pressure. Canes and walkers help shift weight as well. Acupuncture has shown promising results as well as something as simple as massage therapy from a trained professional.
Perhaps the most effective of all the alternatives though is physical therapy. Often prescribed for soft tissue trauma, nerve inflammation, muscle spasms, fractures, arthritis and more, physical therapy uses various techniques and methodologies to heal your body.
By increasing and enhancing flexibility, bringing back functionality and range of motion, a trained physical therapist can work with you not just to reduce pain but also to get you back in shape. Often in even better shape than when you arrived.
The improved strength you’ll achieve on top of learning ways in which to prevent injury and pain going forward can safeguard and help you more than solely relying on pills to do the job.
That’s our specialty at Pacific Rehabilitation Centers. If you’re covered under Workers Comp and wary of meds or simply want an approach to chronic pain that sets you up for long-term success without the worry of long term side effects, get in touch with us and we’ll walk you through the options.
Oh, and one more important thing, if you’re worried about staying safe and keeping distance in these times, rest assured we’ve got you covered. We can provide both evaluation and treatment via telehealth. All the benefits of physical therapy without being physically close.
If you would like to learn more about Pacific Rehabilitation Centers, please read more about us
or contact us