“Numbing the pain for a while will make it worse when you finally feel it.” ― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
No one wants to suffer from chronic pain, yet many people do so all the time. Whether it’s a “bad” knee, a sore neck, or a pinched nerve in your back, pain that lasts and never seems to subside or go away can be debilitating in a variety of ways.
For example, it’s estimated that about 25 percent of Americans have experienced low back pain within the past three months. Lower back pain is one of the most common types of pain and the cause of most disability in adults under the age of 45.
So, what do most of do when we are suffering from chronic pain? Right – we take pills.
There is a wide variety of over-the-counter medications for pain. And, depending on how severe the pain is, how and where it’s located, there are medications that promoted specifically for that.
Oh, The Drugs That We Can Take
For most people with chronic muscle pain, the first over-the-counter medication we go to is what is known as a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). You might recognize these as such as ibuprofen (Motrin®) or naproxen (Aleve®). These are probably the most common, regardless of which brand, and work primarily by reducing muscle inflammation, which is often a secondary or immediate cause of chronic pain.
In addition to ibuprofen and naproxen, drugs such as Tylenol® (acetaminophen) are also used to treat pain. Acetaminophen is not a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug, however, but an analgesic. The exact mechanism of action of acetaminophen is not known. It may reduce the production of prostaglandins in the brain, which are chemicals that cause inflammation and swelling.
Many medical professionals consider any pain lasting more than three months to be considered “chronic pain” and a patient ingesting high doses of NSAIDs or analgesics for longer than that runs a high risk of side-effects.
According to WebMD,
“Although these medications are on the milder side of the pain relief spectrum, they still come with side effects — especially if you take them at higher doses for a long time. NSAID side effects can include gastrointestinal problems, ulcers, and kidney damage, while acetaminophen can affect the liver.”
And even these issues are relatively mild compared to what can occur with prescription pain killers that are given for chronic pain. If a sustained regimen of over-the-counter medications are not offering sufficient pain relief, your doctor may suggest adding a muscle relaxant. These medications include:
- Cyclobenzaprine (Flexeril)
- Tizanidine (Zanaflex)
- Baclofen (Lioresal)
- Carisoprodol (Soma)
The problem with these and other brands in the same category is that they pose a real risk of side-effects. Many of these drugs are well known for the tendency to be addictive. And long-term use, or abuse, can lead to a variety of side-effects.
For example, according to Narconon, Flexeril can have a severe nervous system and mental effects, including seizures, convulsions, loss of muscle tone, disorientation, anxiety, hallucinations, and psychosis. Some have their own, unique, possible side effects. It’s found in some users that they either lack a sufficient number of white blood cells or they lack a sufficient number of ANY KIND of blood cells. Insufficient white blood cells means that a person will have lowered immunity and be at risk for all kinds of illnesses or infections.
In addition, most of the common muscle relaxants have been found to cause damage to the liver and kidneys, among other organs and systems.
Then There are the Opioids
We’ve likely all heard about the epidemic of opioid addiction and abuse in the United States. The statistics are both staggering and sobering. Here are just a few from the Center for Disease Control (CDC):
- Around 68% of the more than 70,200 drug overdose deaths in 2017 involved an opioid.
- In 2017, the number of overdose deaths involving opioids (including prescription opioids and illegal opioids like heroin and illicitly manufactured fentanyl) was 6 times higher than in 1999.
- On average, 130 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose.
You would think with the publicity and the rising number of addictions and deaths that doctors would scale back drastically on the opioid prescriptions. According to the CDC, however, In 2017 there were still almost 58 opioid prescriptions written for every 100 Americans. This means that more than 17 percent of Americans had at least one opioid prescription filled, with an average of 3.4 opioid prescriptions dispensed per patient.
In other words, almost two out of every ten Americans is likely to have a prescription for an opioid drug. The prescription drugs most often abused include opioid painkillers, anti-anxiety medications, sedatives, and stimulants, according to the Mayo Clinic.
What is often overlooked with the traditional approach to chronic pain treatment is the need to assess and discover the root cause of pain. Plying a patient with over-the-counter or prescription drugs can unintentionally deflect from finding a permanent solution and, quite likely, lead to other problems.
Pain and Performance Solutions: An Alternative for Chronic Pain Treatment
When you initially come to Pain and Performance Solutions, we make it a point to first learn everything we can about your current pain along with any history of discomfort. Actually treating and relieving your chronic pain can only start once we understand where and how your pain started.
Your trust in us and your honesty are key to our success. Ultimately, the only way to achieve total recovery is by getting your body healthy and working properly.
We do this by first conducting a full examination to help us determine which form of treatment is best suited to put you on your road to recovery. Because your body can compensate for pain to allow you to function during your day, the pain can move or lead to other forms of pain.
Don’t hesitate to reach out. We are here to help and will answer any questions that you may have.