Much ado about a drug that doesn’t even relieve pain

It’s no secret that opioids come with serious side effects…

Nausea, vomiting, constipation, physical dependence, increased tolerance, depression and — of course — a huge risk of addiction.

Most people put up with these side effects because they’re in serious pain and opioids make that pain more tolerable. At least that’s what we thought…

But what if opioid prescriptions aren’t making the pain better? What if they actually make it worse?

If you’re taking opioids to manage chronic pain (or you know someone who is), you’d probably like to know if that’s the case, right? Why put yourself in jeopardy for nothing?

Well, a recent study shows that opioids may not be helping people with chronic pain at all.

That means it’s time to seriously question their place in any pain management plan if you haven’t already.

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Opioids don’t do much for chronic pain

Whether you have musculoskeletal pain, neuropathic pain or migraines, you may rely on opioids to take the edge off your chronic pain.

But a recent study from Washington State University researchers found that, in many cases, opioids aren’t helping. In some cases, they’re even making chronic pain worse.

Researchers asked 551 people who had been on long-term opioid therapy for chronic pain to stop taking their opioids for two years. And here’s the thing….

Most of them didn’t notice a difference. Their pain didn’t get worse. In some cases, their pain improved off the medication.

So, are the risks of opioids really worth it for people with chronic pain? Probably not.

“Our results indicate that long-term opioid therapy does not effectively manage patient pain intensity any more effectively than not receiving long-term opioid therapy,” said Sterling McPherson, associate professor and director for biostatistics and clinical trial design at the WSU Elson F. Floyd College of Medicine. “There are a variety of treatments available for the management of chronic pain other than opioids and our hope is that this research will help promote conversations about these alternatives between doctors and their patients.”

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Opioid alternatives for chronic pain

How can you manage chronic pain without turning to opioids?

There are plenty of options. But a 2016 review of the research on pain management found that certain options are more effective for certain types of chronic pain…

  • Yoga and tai chi were most effective for people with osteoarthritis, for example.
  • Massage was best for people with neck pain.
  • Acupuncture was best for people with back pain.
  • And relaxation techniques like progressive muscle relaxation, biofeedback or guided imagery were most effective for people with headaches and migraines.

A lifestyle that fights inflammation can also help reduce chronic pain since inflammation is at the root of most pain…

  • Start by eating a healthy diet that’s filled with anti-inflammatory foods, like the Mediterranean diet — or the Paleo diet, that is devoid of inflammation-causing grains.
  • Exercise regularly, even if it’s just gentle stretching or a short walk.
  • Get enough of the inflammation and pain-fighting vitamin, vitamin D.

If you experiment with these natural pain-fighting solutions, you’re bound to find a remedy that will make your chronic pain a thing of the past.

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Margaret Cantwell

By Margaret Cantwell

Margaret Cantwell began her paleo diet in 2010 in an effort to lose weight. Since then, the diet has been instrumental in helping her overcome a number of other health problems. Thanks to the benefits she has enjoyed from her paleo diet and lifestyle, she dedicates her time as managing editor of Easy Health Digest™, researching and writing about a broad range of health and wellness topics, including diet, exercise, nutrition and supplementation, so that readers can also be empowered to experience their best health possible.