Do you hurt from pain a lot of the time? If you said yes, then you might have chronic pain. You are not alone.

Chronic pain is a common reason adults go to see a doctor (Dahlhamer et al., 2018). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) noted that in 2016 there were more than 69 million adults in this country living with pain (Dahlhamer et al., 2018). This type of pain is pain that can last weeks, months or even years (Lozier et al., 2018). Chronic pain can lead to many other problems. It can make you feel sad. It can make you lose interest in fun, everyday activities with family and friends (Dahlhamer et al., 2018).

The doctor might prescribe a strong drug called an opioid. This is often known as a narcotic. This drug might help stop or ease pain. It can cause many other problems. It can make going to the bathroom hard, make you to feel sleepy and/or cause you to not breath deep enough, or it can cause you to be confused (Lozier et al., 2018). Narcotics can even become a habit, and you might be unable to stop taking the drug. This is called an addiction.

Addiction is a problem where we live. In 2017 in South Carolina, there were 4.3 million prescriptions for narcotic drugs filled (Kelly, Thomson, Frick, Heidari, & Sen, 2018). In Florence County alone, 153,241 prescriptions for narcotics were filled in 2017 (Kelly et al., 2018). These drugs are needed and helpful but should be used with caution. Because these drugs are addictive, they can be misused and abused. Narcotic drugs are not the only way to treat pain. There are ways to help decrease or relieve pain that do not use these strong drugs. It is important to know your choices.

To improve safety, in 2016 the CDC made a guideline that advised against the use of narcotics as a first-line treatment for chronic pain. The guide advised for the use of non-medicine treatments (CDC, 2016). Some choices for pain relief are lifestyle changes such as exercising (Singh, 2019). You do not have to go to the gym or spend a lot of money. Even if you are not able to walk far, there are exercises that you can do at home. Among other things, you can listen to music or sit in a calm, quiet place (Singh, 2019). This will help to clear your mind and help you to relax. There are treatments for your pain that can be ordered by the doctor. Physical therapy or support braces can be ordered (Singh, 2019). These options and more have been endorsed by the Department of Health and Human Services to help you decrease your pain without using narcotics.

The CDC has studied many non-narcotic chronic pain treatments. By choosing a non-narcotic pain treatment, you might be able to decrease the number of narcotics you are taking. You might even be able to stop using narcotics.

Talk to your doctor about the choices that might work for you. Ask your doctor to help you pick something that is safe and effective. Remember, everyone is not alike, and what works for one person might not work for another. The goal is for you to get pain relief, keep you safe and increase your quality of life (Singh, 2019).

AIMEE RENAE MATTHEWS

Francis Marion University

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