Treating Pain with Over-the-counter Painkillers Instead of Opioids

In an opioid epidemic that currently claims an average of 91 lives per day, there have been many paths to addiction. For some, it started with a fall or a sports injury, a trip to a nearby emergency room and a prescription for a narcotic pain reliever.  For others, addiction was fostered as a treatment for chronic unresolved pain. In an article written in the LA Times, new research underscores how tragically risky — and unnecessary — such prescribing choices may have been.

The Veterans Administration has essentially discontinued prescribing opioids for veterans despite the often longstanding unresolved pain.  Vets are being referred to acupuncturists as an alternative to pain management since acupuncture has shown to be effective in managing and often resolving pain. 

I have been privileged to treat many veterans and non-veterans over the past several years. One of my goals has been to discontinue the use of opioids to manage pain. For any pain medications, I discourage putting these meds in a daily pill box. Instead, keep the bottles separate and only take then when other methods fail to provide adequate relief, and then only take the minimum dosage required to ease the pain.

A recent trial suggests that many patients can take 400 mg of ibuprofen (two regular-strength pills) and 1000 mg of acetaminophen (two extra-strength tablets) at a time and receive the nearly the same, and at times better, relief than those who were given either hydrocodone or oxycodone. (For adults Ibuprofen has a safe daily dosing limit of 3,200 mg per day and Acetaminophen has a safe daily dosing limit of 4,000 mg.) Some pts complain of adverse side effects from some OTCs; however, they are usually minor compared to the risks of opioids.  Check with an MD prior to embarking on a change in pain medication.

At Elite Integrated Medicine, as a Licensed Acupuncturist and Physical Therapist, I have offered my clients some excellent tools, in addition to acupuncture and Zero Balancing ( a unique type of manual therapy) to help them manage and often relieve pain.  I instruct in adding gentle Qigong style movement coordinated with their breath to their lifestyle to reduce painful spasms.  With these changes in addition to the intermittent use of OTCs, pain can, at the least, be managed and often eliminated.   Future articles will discuss the alternative source of pain i.e. as the memory of pain and how it often lingers despite the removal of the actual source of pain.  You’ve heard of phantom limb pain?

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