Surgery and injuries are painful.

In years past, opioids were thought to be the most effective at reducing or eliminating pain. But with the opioid crisis at epic proportions, it’s time to rethink the use of these medications.

The American Society of Anesthesiologists lists several alternatives to opioids. In addition to the typical over-the-counter medications, like ibuprofen, acetaminophen, aspirin, steroids, and other non-opioid prescription medications, they suggest a few manual types of pain relief.

Many of these are available through Bone & Joint’s pain management and physical therapy services.

  • Physical therapy can help people loosen tight muscles, increase the flexibility of the ligaments and tendons, and help people move with less pain. Recent studies show physical therapy is as effective as surgery for the treatment of low-back pain for some patients.
  • Interventional pain management uses many techniques to stop the nerves from transmitting painful messages to the brain. Some of these interventional methods include:
    • Nerve blocks, and steroid and trigger point injections. These treatments can provide temporary relief as they block the body’s ability to send pain messages to the brain.
    • Radio-frequency ablation uses electrical current to heat the ends of the nerves to slow or stop the transmission of pain signals. This technique is usually used to relieve or eliminate neck and back pain.
    • Spinal cord or nerve stimulation uses electrical impulses to interrupt pain-filled messages.
  • Physician-recommended exercise is another way to combat pain without opioids. Following the recommended exercises of a physical therapist, a sports medicine specialist, or a pain management specialist can help people recover faster and move better with less pain.
  • Meditation helps people focus less on their pain, which can diminish intense feelings. Meditation combined with cognitive behavioral therapy can help people experience less pain.

Other types of care that can relieve pain include acupuncture, chiropractic care, and massage. These alternative medical treatments work well for some people; others find pain relief through more traditional medical treatments.