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Consumer Reports: How to deal with pain without using opioids

Posted: 10:32 AM, May 06, 2019
Updated: 2019-05-07 13:56:34-04

DETROIT (WXYZ) — One in five Americans suffers from chronic pain. And with all the dangers of opioid use, many are looking for alternative treatments that are both safe and effective. Consumer Reports explores the latest research on everything from supplements to sleep.

Nancy Ortiz has been in pain for years.

“I feel the pain in my low back…very strong. And in the morning, I can’t even walk,” Ortiz explained.

She’s been working with a pain management doctor.

“I always tell patients the first thing to do is to do the least invasive for your body," said Felix Roque, M.D., Pain Relief Center.

A recent CDC report shows that of the 50 million Americans in pain, 20 million say it’s so severe, it limited their ability to work, socialize, or take care of themselves and their family. So, what can people do?

"There’s no magic bullet,” said Lisa Gill of Consumer Reports . “Lasting solutions are usually made up of several different kinds of treatment.”

The American College of Physicians recommends trying non-drug measures first. Consider types of exercise that incorporate mindfulness like Tai Chi and yoga. Acupuncture and massage have also shown to help some with chronic back pain and fibromyalgia.

“Another option might be something called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. And that’s where you work with a therapist on changing how you approach your pain,” Gill said.

You may turn to supplements, but for most there’s no data to show they work.

But there is preliminary research to suggest that cannabidiol or CBD, the non-psychoactive compound in the marijuana plant, can reduce inflammation.

Other people try over-the-counter drugs like ibuprofen or acetaminophen, or topical pain relievers in a cream or a patch. Prescription drugs used for pain include antidepressants, muscle relaxants, and opioids, which of course come with the risk of addiction and misuse. But when nothing else works…

“I always say the last resort is to go for surgery,” said Dr. Roque. A Congressional report indicated that “for every physician certified in pain care, there are more than 28-thousand-five-hundred Americans living with chronic pain.”

If your doctor does recommend surgery, we’ve got the three questions Consumer Reports says you should always ask first:

  • Am I even a good candidate?
  • Are there any other options?
  • What results can I actually expect?