The use of opioid medications to control chronic back pain can put you in danger of acquiring a potentially dangerous drug addiction. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, US healthcare providers have been nearly tripling the amount of opioids they prescribe per person over the past dozen years or so. When taken for too many consecutive weeks, even at low doses, prescription pain medications increase your risk for addiction by 15 times.
The Dangers of Addiction
Although prescription pain medications such as hydrocodone, morphine, codeine, and oxycontin may help take the edge off your back pain, it is not worth the negative side effects and potential for dependence when there are alternatives to treat your symptoms.
Painkillers such as these have a tendency to make you sleepy, which is why driving should be avoided while on these types of drugs. Opioids also release dopamine in your brain, the neurotransmitter that provides you with pleasurable feelings. This side effect causes a certain percentage of people to seek out increasingly higher doses of the drug, leading to a physical and/or emotional dependency that can interfere with everyday living. Having a dependence on opioids can lead to grave health issues and potentially, premature death. The path to becoming addicted to opioids can often be a subtle one over time, and it is a very difficult condition to treat.
Use Prescription Drugs Safely
If you are prescribed opiates for your back pain, know how to use them wisely. Ask your physician for the lowest dosage possible to treat your issues. Do not increase the dosage on your own without consulting with your healthcare provider. Remember, also, that opioids should not be taken with alcohol or other narcotic medications, as breathing difficulties and increased drowsiness can occur.
Back Pain Treatments That Are Drug-Free
Here at the Spine Institute Northwest, we offer our patients three drug-free treatments for chronic back pain. These treatments are effective and avoid the use of opiate-induced dependency issues.
- Spinal Cord Stimulators: A device that sends pulsed, low-speed electrical signals to your spinal cord or affected nerves can help control chronic back pain. A spinal cord stimulator (SCS) is often helpful to those who have pain that has not responded to other types of therapy. The electrical signals block pain signals from reaching the brain. This non-narcotic treatment requires a psychological evaluation to determine whether you are a candidate for the device, which is implanted near the spinal cord with a pulse generator placed in the upper portion of the buttock. Patients can control or adjust the signal’s intensity as needed. A trial, external stimulator is often used first to determine whether the treatment will control pain effectively.
- Neuromodulation System Implantation: A minimally invasive device, called the StimRouter, targets chronic pain that originates from a peripheral nerve. For lower back neuralgia, the device focuses on the Superior Cluneal nerve, for example, transmitting electrical signals from the skin to the target nerve to manage pain as needed by the patient. The simple procedure for implanting the StimRouter takes just 15-30 minutes, using local anesthesia and a small incision. In just a couple of weeks, you are taught how to control your pain yourself using the pre-programmed device.
- Regenerative Medicine: Stem cell therapies and the use of platelet-rich plasma (PRP) is the latest trend in regenerative medicine to relieve pain at its origins. The use of stem cell therapies uses cells taken from your own body or a donor tissue in order to fix and rejuvenate damaged tissues that are causing pain. These regenerative therapies are often used as a combination therapy with minimally invasive spine surgery. They increase the speed of healing and promote tissue and bone regrowth, along with decreased scar formation. Find out if you are a candidate for regenerative medicine if you suffer from an annular tear, disc degeneration, or other spine issues. PRP is another treatment option that may be used for spine pathologies. PRP is taken from your own blood specimens. The specimens are spun in a centrifuge, separating the renewing elements needed. These regenerative platelets are then injected into targeted spinal segments to speed up tissue and bone healing time, getting you back on your feet and feeling better sooner.
If you are suffering from chronic back pain and want to find out more about alternatives to prescription pain medications, call us today at the Spine Institute Northwest. Learn more about your options for pain relief by calling (206) 496-0630 and take the first steps to take back your life.