Everyone experiences physical pain at various points in their lives, and for a variety of reasons. Pain is uncomfortable at its mildest, and at severe levels, it can be intolerable. When we feel pain of any kind, our natural response is to seek relief pain in some form.
Pain is treated in different ways depending on what type it is and what causes it. Narcotics are often prescribed to treat severe pain, such as after a critical injury, major surgical procedure, or to manage extreme, chronic pain.
Narcotic pain relievers, or opiates, are controlled substances that are only legal for use when prescribed by a licensed healthcare professional. Although opiates are very effective for treating severe pain in the short term, they also have high abuse and addiction potential and cause a variety of adverse side effects.
When taking prescription narcotics or opiates, it is critical to watch out for signs of opioid addiction. These include drug-seeking behaviors such as taking more than the prescribed dose and attempting to refill a prescription too soon.
For those who prefer to avoid prescription painkillers altogether, here are four non-prescription alternatives that can also be used for effective pain relief without causing the risk of becoming chemically dependent.
1. OTC Analgesics
Over-the-counter (OTC) analgesics or pain relievers include NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) and acetaminophen (known by the brand name Tylenol). They are very effective for pain relief and do not require prescriptions. They are also non-addictive and safe for long-term use.
The following are the most commonly used NSAIDs for pain relief:
- naproxen sodium
The main difference between NSAIDs and acetaminophen is that NSAIDs reduce inflammation, including irritation and swelling. Acetaminophen can reduce fever and pain just like NSAIDs, but does not have the same anti-inflammatory effects.
For chronic pain such as severe arthritis, prescription NSAIDs may be recommended if a much higher dosage is needed to decrease inflammation and manage pain. A prescriber will generally advise what dosage and how long to take it, and what other medications to avoid to prevent adverse drug interactions and side effects.
2. Topical Pain Relief
In addition to oral medications, non-prescription topical pain relievers can be very effective for decreasing inflammation and joint, muscle, or nerve pain. Analgesic (pain-relieving) creams, gels, rubs, sprays, and patches are applied topically to areas of localized pain, where ingredients get absorbed through the skin.
The most common ingredients used for topical pain relief include:
Natural alternatives such as cannabis and CBD oil have become increasingly popular in topical analgesic products, as these are also known to have anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties.
Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese approach to treating inflammation and pain, and what has become a modern-day natural alternative to using medications of any kind, prescription or over-the-counter.
Pain relief through acupuncture entails the insertion of tiny needles to divert internal energy away from the source of the pain. This also stimulates the brain to produce certain chemicals, specifically serotonin and endorphins, which affect how the mind responds to pain sensations.
Acupuncture is often used to treat the following:
- nerve pain
- menstrual cramps and pain
- lower back pain
- neck pain
- labor pain
- dental pain
4. Physical Therapy
The Physical therapy is one of the most highly recommended pain treatments as a safer alternative to prescription painkillers such as opiates, including by the CDC.
Physical therapy is considered more effective and sustainable for long-term pain management, while also reducing the risks of opiate dependence and health care costs.
One of the greatest benefits of physical therapy combined with other alternatives to prescription pain relievers is the educational component. It offers people the advantage of learning about the source of their pain and understanding how to manage it independently without being dependent on medication and other treatments.