Coping With Chronic Pain Without Being Hooked On Narcotics

Posted on: 9 December 2014

A number of medical conditions can cause chronic pain that can be hard for you to deal with. There are some very modern ways to assuage the pain and coping skills to live better, without resorting to the use of narcotics.


Acetaminophen is a pretty good choice for mild pain. It is inexpensive and has few side effects, but it can cause liver damage if you take more than the recommended dosage in a 24 hour period. Be sure to factor in the amounts you may be getting if you are taking other drug formulas that have acetaminophen in them.

Tramadol by itself can be very effective in relieving chronic pain for many people. It is a synthetic opioid and acts on the same receptors of nerves as opioids do. It does not pose the same addiction risk that opioids do. However, if you decide go off of it after being on it for a while, your doctor will need to help you titrate down to avoid some adverse effects.

Antidepressants such as duloxetine and amitriptyline can help with fibromyalgia, diabetic neuropathy, cancer and neuralgia. Anticonvulsants such gabapentin and pregabalin are also effective for nerve pain as well.

Other Medical Interventions

For acute pain in a specific area, such as a pinched nerve, an injection of anesthetic can be used as a "nerve block" and this treatment may prevent the development of chronic pain.  

For pain relief that lasts for months, you might want to try radiofrequency ablation which is an outpatient procedure. It works like this: a doctor uses CT imaging to insert a needle into a nerve site that puts out an electrical current to stop pain signals from going up the nerve pathways to the brain. Even though this is a localized treatment, even people with disorders like fibromyalgia and widespread chronic pain may welcome relief in problem areas like the neck or other places.

Trigger point injections are also available now and these contain a combined anesthetic and a steroid to calm nerves and reduce muscle tenderness.

For severe and constant pain that may come with cancer, there are two implanted devices: spinal cord stimulation and spinal cord pumps. These can also be used with other conditions when other treatments have failed. Spinal cord stimulation involves using a pacemaker device that delivers minute electrical signals to the spinal cord, and this blocks the pain signals. Spinal cord pumps send painkilling drugs (which may include narcotic medications) to specific sites on the body where pain is an issue.

Coping Strategies

Developing coping strategies can also reduce pain and anxiety. You would benefit greatly from attending support group sessions where the majority of the participants are proactive and promote a positive atmosphere. You should also have people close to you that you confide in when you are having a bad spell. Just being able to talk honestly about your problems and challenges can provide some relief.

It can be frustrating to try to accomplish things when you feel bad. At those times, be sure to prioritize about what's important, and what can be delegated, saved for another day, or dispensed with without guilt. You should remember to take breaks when needed.

Learning and using relaxation strategies such as meditation and deep breathing exercises can be helpful. You should also plan pleasant distractions such as a daily walk or an outing with friends to be active, and this will improve your mood.

Putting it All Together

Talk to your doctor about medications or procedures you can try to find the best pain relief. Seek support, pace yourself, and learn to relax. After some trial and error, you will find what works for you, and these things will greatly improve the quality of your life. For more advice, contact a clinic such as Illinois Pain Institute.