With all of the talk at Monmouth Pain and Rehab about conservative pain management, physical therapy, chiropractic, and acupuncture for pain relief, some of our patients might be wondering where painkilling medications fit into plans of rehabilitation. Today, we’ll address the issue of using drugs for pain relief.
When it comes to pain management and painkilling medications, there are two basic routes a patient can take. The first is to use painkillers as a temporary, palliative measure while undergoing rehabilitation (with the goal of resolving the painful condition through physical therapy and/or chiropractic care and therefore ending drug use). The second method involves the continued and prolonged use of analgesic medications for instant results.
I think it’s pretty clear which option makes the most sense. Pain medications are ineffective in the pain management process because they do nothing to heal your injury or to address illness. To be clear, when I use the term ‘painkiller,’ I am referring to any type of analgesic, including NSAIDs such as aspirin or ibuprofen, opioid drugs (morphine, codeine, oxycodone), and acetaminophen.
I think it’s important to point out the health risks inherent with long-term drug use for pain relief. Some of these dangers are listed below.
• Gastrointestinal Issues: NSAIDs are a major culprit here. With time, the use of such medications can lead to damage in the intestine and to the lining of the stomach. The result of this destruction may be gastrointestinal bleeding or ulcers.
• Liver Damage: Many pain drugs are processed by the liver. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is especially dangerous when used at higher-than-recommended doses and/or when taken for an extended period of time. Liver damage can lead to failure, cirrhosis, and even death. The kidneys can also be affected by drug use, especially the overuse and long-term use of acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
• Addiction: Drug dependency is usually caused by one of two factors (or a combination of both). These include long-term use and/or the misuse of painkillers. It’s important to follow your pain management doctor’s orders when it comes to the use of medications, particularly opioids.
• Fractures: For those over sixty, opioid medications increase the risk of bone fractures, particularly when taken in higher doses.
I think it’s important to point out that all of the above-listed health issues are related to the long-term use and/or abuse of pain meds. Unfortunately, all prolonged use may be considered abuse and is naturally unhealthy and damaging to the body.
So, how do we deal with pain in a way that’s healthy and effective?
Conservative pain management through medical care (including interventional procedures), physical therapy, acupuncture, and/or chiropractic is an excellent option for a wide range of conditions. These might include back and neck pain, arthritis, migraine, fibromyalgia, knee pain, sports injuries, auto accident injuries, and more.
I think when people hear the term ‘conservative’ they automatically think ‘ineffective.’ Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the multi-disciplinary care at Monmouth Pain and Rehabilitation Center is rather aggressive in nature, and focuses on the primary goal of correcting the causes of pain rather than simply masking the pain itself.
But, how do we help patients in extreme pain? If you are suffering right now, that’s probably the only thing you’re wondering. Your pain may be disabling you to the point where physical therapy or other rehabilitation practices might seem impossible to bear.
In addition to the short-term use of pain medications, our office provides a number of interventional pain management procedures designed to help patients get on the road to recovery. Some of these include Trigger Point Injections (for muscle pain); Joint Injections (for pain related to an injury or degeneration of the joints); Epidural Steroid Injections (to reduce inflammation); Viscosupplementation (which replaces lubricating fluids lost in the knees due to osteoarthritis); and more.
The overall goal of using such interventional (and minimally invasive) procedures is to reduce pain and inflammation so that patients can find relief and begin the rehabilitation process. It is part of an overall strategy to address the causes of pain so that such conditions can be resolved or ameliorated without long-term drug use.