How Seeking Back Pain Treatment Sooner Could Avoid Use of Opioids

How Seeking Back Pain Treatment Sooner Could Avoid Use of Opioids

Back pain often can be nipped in the bud if quickly treated. Your pain due to poor posture or a sedentary lifestyle may be eliminated solely through lifestyle changes or exercises. However, a “slipped disc” or nerve impingement may involve more physician-involved treatment (such as minimally-invasive surgery). According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), 25 percent of all US adults reported within the last three months to their physicians an episode of low back pain. Opioids are typically prescribed when all other pain-relief medications have failed, but long-term opioid reliance is not advisable for a variety of reasons. 

Southwest Spine and Pain Center utilizes a wide range of approaches to treat back pain. Described below are some of the options besides opioids used to treat back pain, as well as the reasons that long-term opioid use should be avoided whenever possible. 

How do NSAIDs and AcetaminophenRelieve Pain?

NSAIDs are one of the primary prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) medication classes used globally to treat back pain. This is because NSAID drugs (e.g.,Ibuprofen) treat the following four key elements of inflammation that normally occur when a muscle or other tissue has been strained (per an article in Surgical Neurology International):

  • Pain;
  • Heat;
  • Redness;
  • Swelling

While Acetaminophen drugs treat pain, they do not treat inflammation (which often occurs with muscle strains contributing to spinal pain). However, neither of these pharmaceutical agents works very well to enable the performance of daily activities if the pain is severe.

Corticosteroid Injections 

Corticosteroid injections are often administered for nerve-caused back pain, and especially if NSAIDs have not been effective. The three most common targets on the body for corticosteroid injections (as described in Harvard Men’s Health Watch) are the following:

  • Epidural space of the spinal cord (where nerves exit the spinal column and extend to other parts of the body, such as the sciatic nerve root).
  • Tendons and bursae (for relief of inflammation in order to reduce friction).
  • Joints (to relieve inflammation due to arthritis).

Opioid Abuse and Its Ramifications

Among the 20.5 million drug-abusing people over age 12 in the US, an estimated 2 million abused pain-relieving medications (per the American Society of Addiction Medicine). Most are abusers of opioid medications, and many of these people commenced their abuse with prescribed opioid pills. Although opioid drugs are highly effective at relieving pain, toleranceto its effects can develop within only a few weeks of use.

Consequently, the individual using the opioid medication for chronic back pain relief may require increasingly higher doses to obtain the same level of relief. Over time, that person often develops a physical dependenceupon the opioid, which can result in withdrawal symptoms when attempting to totally halt opioid intake. Eventually, the person chronically-ingesting opioids to relieve pain experiences a higher degree of pain when not ingesting the opioid subsequent to changes in brain chemistry (and creating a vicious cycle of addiction).

Minimally-Invasive Surgery for Back Pain Relief

Osteoarthritis can result in back pain in aging people, and the wearing down of cartilage between the vertebrae is the underlying cause of the chronic pain. This most commonly occurs in the neck and lower back vertebrae. Meanwhile, a sports injury or heavy lifting can result in a herniated disc in the spine in working-age adults. Minimally-invasive surgery may be recommended to treat the problem before more invasive surgery (since invasive surgery usually entails a higher complication and infection risk, as well as hospitalization).

Minimally-invasive surgeries at Southwest Spine and Pain Center are performed by highly-skilled physicians. We understand that each patient’s pain is unique, and required an individually-tailored treatment plan. Due to the wide range of treatment options available at our various locations in Utah, we hope that you will schedule an appointment for a consultation or treatment at one of our facilities.

If chronic pain is impacting your life, don't wait to schedule an appointment at Southwest Spine and Pain Center. With three locations and growing, the pain management specialists at Southwest Spine and Pain Center are dedicated to helping those who suffer from chronic pain live the life they want to! To schedule an appointment, visit our locations tab!

The advice and information contained in this article is for educational purposes only, and is not intended to replace or counter a physician’s advice or judgment. Please always consult your physician before taking any advice learned here or in any other educational medical material.

©Southwest Spine and Pain Center, 2018