You've had an injury or surgery and you're in physical pain. It could be low back pain, shoulder pain, knee pain, etc. It's impacting the quality of your life, you can't sleep, you can't perform your job, and you can't be as active and present with your friends or family as you'd like to be. So what are you supposed to do? You see all sorts of commercials for pharmaceuticals that apparently help with nerve pain by turning the nerve's pain receptors down. So you book yourself with a pain management specialist to see what they suggest. Sounds good right? WRONG!
Pain Management Specialists that prescribe opiates and other painkillers are one of the top reasons why this country is now dealing with drug addiction at higher levels than we've seen in decades. I can't tell how often I hear of a someone that suffers an injury, goes to a doctor, are prescribed a narcotic like oxycodone, and the next thing you know 5 years have gone by and this person is still dealing with pain in the injured area and now they've got a heroin addiction and their lives have spun out of control. I'm not saying this to scare you or suggesting that it happens every time someone takes a narcotic but the risk is there nonetheless.
Did you know the number of unintentional overdose deaths from prescription pain relievers has more than quadrupled since 1999 in the United States? It's estimated that 2.1 million people in the United States suffered from substance use disorders related to prescription opioid pain relievers in 2012. It's only gotten worse since then. The bottom line--jumping straight to chronic narcotic/opioid use (let's call it the "easy fix" that can have lasting effects that are not so "easy") rather than evaluating and treating the source of the pain is not the answer. There is an alternative!
When we move our bodies, there is physical stress. If there is too much of this physical stress and specific tissues get overwhelmed, then chemical inflammation occurs which then gets expressed in the brain as PAIN! So what should we do about this? We should take efforts to ensure that when we move our bodies, we're stressing the right areas and not the wrong ones. So what are the right areas?
Our spines were not designed to be the most flexible structures in the world. Most of the time, when a practitioner is treating you for back pain, they take efforts to stabilize or limit the excessive motion of the spine. At the same time, we want to ensure that we have proper flexibility and motion in our hips and our shoulders. Those "ball and socket" hip joints have 360 degrees of motion in them for a reason.
The purpose of this article isn't to show you how to move your body. I've covered that in other articles and if you'd like to check some of them out, look at the right side of the page. The purpose of this article is to inform you that there is a way to move our bodies better, to move them smarter in a way that will decrease chemical pain and inflammation to help us heal our injuries and decrease the amount of chronic pain that impacts our lives. So who exactly, can help you? Probably not a pain specialist.
What is Drug-Free Pain Management?
Physical Medicine Providers. While pain management specialists try to help patients through chemical manipulation, a physical medicine practitioner (Physical Medicine MD/DO, Chiropractor, Physical Therapist) helps by improving the movement of your body. Physical interventions for physical problems.
By using manual therapies we can decrease over-active or actively "tight" musculature. This will automatically improve the alignment of joints, which decreases pain signals sent to the brain. Now that you have more flexibility in your body, we start to upload new movement "software" with stability and strength exercises. Here's a quick video that shows the types of interventions I would use to address a common pain management condition: Low Back Pain.
What Drug-Free Pain Management Looks Like: Manual Therapy and Correct Exercises
ConclusionTo wrap this up, I'd like to inform and invite you to consider physical interventions to pain management problems. Addressing pain and injuries solely with chemical interventions like anti-inflammatories and narcotics open the door to life-altering problems that we all should try to avoid if possible. Thank you and good luck!