What’s Worse: The Back Pain Or The Painkillers?

by Derrick Lane

Millions of Americans with back pain take powerful and potentially addictive opioid painkillers. But in a new survey, many say the drugs provide only limited relief and they worry about taking them.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the rate of overdose deaths involving opioids — including prescription opioid pain relievers and heroin — nearly quadrupled since 1999. And more than 165,000 people have died from prescription opioid overdoses.

The survey included more than 2,000 people with low back pain. Of the nearly half who were currently taking opioids, only 13 percent said the drugs were very successful at relieving their pain. Forty-four percent said the drugs were somewhat successful, 31 percent said they were moderately successful and 12 percent said they were unsuccessful.

Seventy-five percent said the drugs had side effects such as constipation (65 percent), sleepiness (37 percent), thinking and memory problems (32 percent) and drug dependence (29 percent).

“Patients are increasingly aware that opioids are problematic, but don’t know there are alternative treatment options,” says survey author Dr. Asokumar Buvanendran.

Stigma was another concern for these patients. Forty-one percent of those taking opioids said they felt judged for their use of the drugs. Even though 68 percent of the patients also took antidepressants, only 19 percent felt any stigma from using those medications.

Alternative therapies

“While some patients may benefit from opioids for severe pain for a few days after an injury, physicians need to wean their patients off them and use multi-modal therapies instead,” Buvanendran said in an ASA news release.

He said that these other therapies include physical therapy, bracing, nerve blocks, nerve ablation techniques (where nerve cells are destroyed to ease pain) or implantable devices.

Anti-inflammatory medications and alternative therapies such as biofeedback and massage can also help, Buvanendran added.

Check out these other natural ways to manage back pain:

1. Acupuncture

Acupuncture releases natural opioids, hormones, and neurochemicals that relieve the pain you are feeling and send soothing signals to the nervous system.

2. Chiropractic

Chiropractic spinal manipulation can help repair your joints and restore your mobility. How does it work? Chiropractic involves manually applying a controlled force to restricted or injured joints to reduce strain, pain, and inflammation. After this procedure, you should be relieved of tightness.

3. Capsaicin Cream

Capsaicin is a very common active ingredient found in chili peppers. But did you know that when it is applied to the skin it diminishes the neurochemical substance that transmits pain?

4. Vitamin D

Back pain is also a symptom of vitamin D deficiency, a deficiency that is highly prevalent in the Black community. Many people report an improvement in their chronic muscular pain after taking vitamin D supplements. You can get vitamin D through sunlight or from certain foods such as fish and milk.

5. Anti-Inflammatory Herbs

Natural herbs, such as white willow and devil’s claw, have great anti-inflammatory properties that many people use for back relief.

6. Magnesium

Magnesium maintains normal nerve and muscle function and also regulates the immune system. You can get magnesium in the form of supplements.

7. Yoga

Yoga helps relieve pain and keep the body fit and healthy. In fact, many people believe yoga is more efficient at reducing back pain than any other therapeutic exercise or health care technique.

8. Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 injections are another solution for chronic back pain. Studies conducted in Europe have proved that injections work and statistically improve mobility and manage pain.

9. Alexander Technique

Do you find that your posture is often slouched? If so, Alexander Technique may provide you with some relief. This treatment encourages people to improve their posture and refrain from slouching so their muscles are relaxed and their back is supported at all times.