People can become addicted to many different things. Despite alcohol and drugs likely being the most common, there are a range of behavioral addictions that can cause a variety of other problems; these behavioral addictions include gambling addiction, spending addiction, sex addiction, food and eating addiction, exercise addiction, body modification addiction, and so on. Although each “drug” of choice comes with its own level of risk, its own side effects and dangers, one thing remains the same across all addictions: Individuals are so compelled to fulfill their addictions that it puts their health, relationships, finances, and even their lives at risk.
While alcohol and drug addicts can get their start with substance abuse in many different ways, one of the easiest and most common methods for an individual to develop addiction is to lose control of the medication prescribed for pain management. It’s both easy and common for those who suffer from chronic pain to increase dosage of pain medication on their own volition. It’s not that they intend to become dependent, but rather the presence of chronic pain leads to rationalization of increasing dosage of pain medication under the assumption that more painkillers will mean more relief. Unfortunately, within weeks the individual’s tolerance has increased to such an extent that a month’s supply of pain medication might only last a week, creating more of a problem than if the medication had only been taken as prescribed and possible even leading the physically dependent to resort to supplementing pain medication by purchasing street drugs like heroin.
There are many addicts who have completed an addiction treatment program after developing an addiction to pain medication prescribed for legitimate conditions that involve chronic noncancer pain (CNP). However, once the individual had achieved sobriety and has entered the maintenance phase of recovery, he or she will often realize that the chronic pain that was experienced prior to the development of addiction has returned, but this time the individual is unable to use narcotic or opiate pain medications in order to manage the pain. Does that mean that addicts in recovery must simply become accustomed to pain, even when it’s excruciating and debilitating?
The answer: No. There are pain management solutions for recovering addicts that do not involve opiate painkillers that jeopardize recovery. For those in recovery who also suffer from chronic noncancer pain, here are five tips for pain management that won’t put your sobriety at risk.
1: Acupuncture Can Be Effective in Treating Many Types of Pain
Acupuncture—the ancient Chinese healing technique that involves inserting hair-thin needles into the skin at specific points around the body—is listed by the World Health Organization as a valid treatment for many different types of pain and even fibromyalgia. Especially for pain in the back or pain that’s arthritic in nature, acupuncture has offered relief to patients the world over for thousands of years. In 2007, a meta-analysis of many studies on the efficacy of acupuncture found that among the different conditions from which acupuncture offered relief to patients, it was found that treating back pain, especially lower back pain, is where acupuncture was the most effective.
2: Spinal Manipulation Shows Promise for Pain and Headaches
Although we’re still in need of more clinical trials to determine the extent to which spinal manipulation, also known as spinal manipulative therapy, is helpful, preliminary results indicate that this technique, in which chiropractors and trained clinicians apply controlled pressure or force to specific areas and joints in the spine, has offered patients relief from conditions involving back pain as well as from neck pain, headaches, and even migraines. In addition to offering pain relief, spinal manipulation is thought to offer mobility benefits and improved motion in the spine.
3: Therapeutic Massage as Pain Management Technique
Most people have gotten massages when they want to indulge or pamper themselves, but there’s a growing body of evidence that massage can be very beneficial to individuals who suffer from one or more forms of chronic noncancer pain. In fact, a 2001 study published in Archives of Internal Medicine found that those individuals who received at least one massage each week over a ten-week period reportedly experienced more relief from pain than did individuals who received acupuncture treatments or tried any other alternative pain relief techniques.
4: Biofeedback for Identifying Ways to Decrease Pain
The underlying mechanisms of biofeedback that have made it extremely effective in treating many types of chronic pain as well as incontinence, migraine headaches, and even high blood pressure are somewhat mysterious and not yet fully understood. It’s presently thought that simply becoming more aware of the inner processes at work in the body gives individuals more control over those processes. During biofeedback therapy—which typically take place in a physician’s office as it involves a lot of equipment—a number of electrodes are attached to the individual’s skin while sensors are attached to the fingers, which collectively monitor the body’s vitals including temperature, heart rate, perspiration, oxygen levels, blood pressure, muscle activity, and so on. This allows a physician to note what bodily processes are affected and how those processes change as a result of stress or other conditions. With this information, the individual can practice targeted exercises to improve those systems, including deep breathing, muscle relaxation, mindfulness exercises, and so on.
5: Hypnotherapy and Meditation to Reduce Secondary Effects of Pain
When people experience pain, they often tense their muscles and constrict blood flow in the area, which cause agitate the pain and make it even worse. This is a common cause for migraines as an individual tenses the muscles surrounding the skull during a headache to the point of the headache becoming significantly worse and developing into a migraine. As such, exercises that involve relaxation have proven to be very successful in offering relief from some of the secondary effects associated with chronic pain. Hypnotherapy and meditation have proven to be particularly helpful in these areas as they both induce an altered state of the individual’s consciousness, increasing bodily awareness, decreasing the anxiety and tension associated with pain, and thereby significantly reducing the severity of chronic noncancer pain.
While chronic pain is a serious condition that requires adequate treatment, there are a number of complementary and alternative medicines (CAMs) that are effective in treating chronic noncancer pain (CNP) in individuals with a history of addiction and substance abuse. All it takes is some research and being determined to find an effective treatment or combination of treatments for chronic pain in order to find long-term relief.
If you or someone you love suffers from addiction with or without chronic pain, the Palm Beach Institute is here to help. Our recovery specialists have helped countless addicts begin the journey of recovery by finding the right addiction treatment programs to meet their individual needs. You can begin the journey toward a life of sobriety and fulfillment, too. Call us today.