Four Non-Opioid Alternatives for Pain Management

Published on July 15, 2019
Mountainside Canaan Aerial Shot

Canaan, CT – Chronic pain is a debilitating and all-too-common reality for over 50 million Americans. Defined as discomfort persisting longer than three months, chronic pain can drastically impact a person’s quality of life. Many sufferers turn to prescription opioids for relief, without realizing that these powerful painkillers have a high potential for addiction. Many people, from sports athletes to young adults, struggle with painkiller abuse. With prescription drug overdose deaths on the rise in Connecticut, non-opioid treatments can be lifesaving. Here are four alternatives for alleviating chronic pain:

  1. Acupuncture. Every year, approximately three million Americans are treated with acupuncture, a holistic treatment practice rooted in Chinese philosophy. “Acupuncture is an effective natural painkiller that increases energy and blood flow throughout the body,” says Sophia Hartell, acupuncturist at Mountainside. “Many who have struggled with addiction and mental health disorders find that acupuncture helps them achieve physical, mental, and spiritual balance, making them less likely to rely on substances to ease their discomfort.” Aside from offering a solution for chronic pain, acupuncture sessions can also aid those who regularly experience tension-type headaches. Nearly half of participants in a 2016 study said that acupuncture reduced their recurring headaches by 50 percent.
  2. Exercise. Physical activity can similarly benefit those who suffer from chronic pain. Aerobic exercise, strength training, and flexibility training have all been proven to reduce chronic pain symptoms and improve emotional well-being. Movement therapies, including yoga and Qi Gong, improve flexibility and muscular strength. Yoga also relieves pain by promoting oxygen flow to parts of the body that are not often used, such as the pelvis and hips. As an added advantage, these exercises are less intensive than others, making them especially useful for older individuals or those with limited athletic abilities.
  3. Massage Therapy. Although the benefits of massage therapy for pain management are still being studied, researchers from Harvard Health note that it can alleviate pain by relaxing the tendons, muscles, and joints. Those who experienced pain in their hands, for example, noticed less discomfort after attending four massage sessions each week and practicing self-massage on their own. Participants also found that the hand massages improved their sleep patterns and reduced their anxiety and depression symptoms, compared to those who did not receive massage therapy.
  4. Eating Anti-Inflammatory Foods. Joint pain and swelling often stem from inflammation, which can cause tissue damage. Therefore, chronic pain sufferers should avoid overly processed foods and replace them with anti-inflammatory options, including fruits, nuts, spinach, and salmon. Ginger’s anti-inflammatory properties are also well-known, with a 2017 study finding that ginger can be as effective as ibuprofen for pain relief. Another journal article revealed that ginger extract can improve osteoarthritis, when used topically.

Occasional aches are natural, but chronic pain should not be ignored. Those who experience ongoing discomfort should meet with a medical professional to develop a treatment plan suited to their needs. As the opioid crisis intensifies, it is more vital than ever for chronic pain sufferers to understand their options and safeguard their well-being.