Nearly 43,000 deaths were reported in 2016 due to opioid overdose — that’s more than the approximately 41,000 who died from breast cancer that same year (CDC-Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).
Opioids are prescription painkillers that can be highly addictive. They are often prescribed as follow-up to surgery or to manage chronic pain.
As orthopedic surgeons and sports rehabilitation experts who often deal with treating pain, we like to suggest a combined approach of opioids–only as necessary–along with other medications such as NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) and alternative therapies to curb addiction.
Because September is Pain Awareness Month (organized by the American Chronic Pain Association), here are some helpful facts to know about opioids and NSAIDs:
- Opioids are for moderate to severe pain, used best for short-term immediately after surgery.
- Opioids may induce serious side effects such as drowsiness, confusion, nausea, or constipation.
- NSAIDs reduce swelling and soreness and are good for mild to moderate pain.
- Common NSAIDs include aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen.
- NSAIDs do not typically have side effects or lead to addiction.
Additional ways to alleviate pain are:
- Local anesthetics given via injection or an epidural at the site of pain.
- Elevating affected areas and using ice to reduce swelling.
- Alternately, using heat for comfort as needed.
- Physical therapy as directed by your physician or orthopedist to strengthen sore spots and facilitate healing. Dry needling is also an effective alternative physical therapy treatment to help chronic muscle pain.
As always, discuss a pain management protocol with your physician both before and after a major surgery. If you have issues with chronic pain related to your bones, joints, or muscles, please contact us for an appointment with one of our specialists.
(Adapted from AAOS-American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons’ Ortho Info)