5 More Alternatives to Opioids
As efforts are being made to decrease opioid abuse, many chronic pain sufferers are desperate to find effective alternative treatments. Here are 5 opioid replacement treatment options:
Spinal Cord Stimulation (SCS)
When the body feels pain, it is because nerves are sending pain signals to the brain. SCS is a treatment where the pain signals from the lower back and legs are prevented from reaching the brain. SCS works by implanting a small implanted pulse generator and thin wires (aka leads) in the body. These leads then deliver tiny pulses to the nerves that mask pain signals that travel to the brain. Instead of pain, some patients feel a slight tingling or fluttering sensation. (This is also known as paresthesia.)
SCS is considered a success if the following criteria are met:
- A person can relax and sleep better
- Pain is reduced by 50% or greater
- Daily activities can be resumed
- A decreased need for pain medication
Another promising replacement for opioids is mindfulness. This is the practice of living in the moment. The key is to focus on the present and not waste energy worrying about the future and possible worst-case scenarios. By adapting this method, a person may be able to effectively handle their chronic pain more efficiently. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2016 found that over the course of 26 weeks, mindfulness treatments resulted in a decrease in back pain and functional limitations.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Those suffering from chronic pain can experience feelings of depression, anxiety, hopelessness and other negative emotions. Cognitive behavior therapy is the practice of “acceptance theory,” which is designed to help change a person’s behaviors and perceptions. This can result in a patient having increases confidence and mental fortitude for managing pain and discomfort.
First used in 1931, radiofrequency ablation uses electric currents to decrease pain signals from a specific nerve. An expert in a review on Medscape said "RFA offers the most precise method currently available for physicians to "control their patients' pain on a longer term basis."
An option many chronic pain sufferers will consider is steroid injections. These injections are often given to relieve inflammation and pain in the affected joints. Preliminary studies indicate steroid injections may be beneficial in the short term, but long term benefits are still being determined.
It’s critical that chronic pain sufferers keep an open mind and consider the various options available to them. By doing so, they increase the probability of finding relief from this debilitating condition.