Learning to manage chronic pain every day takes a rounded approach. It means using the best combination of physical and mental therapies to help you get by. However, in some cases, medical professionals have relied on prescribing potentially addictive medication to offer pain relief over the long term.
As a result, NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) recently published updated guidelines1 on the assessment and management of chronic pain. So, what do these new guidelines mean and what are the drug-free alternatives for people living with chronic pain?
NICE guidelines on chronic pain management
In their updated guidelines, NICE recommended a range of alternative treatments that are just as effective for people living with chronic pain. The organisation called on healthcare professionals to take a more holistic approach to pain management and recognise and treat a person’s pain as valid and unique to them.
The guideline makes specific recommendations for dealing with chronic pain. This is pain that lasts longer than three months, in spite of medication or treatment e.g., the persistent pain that affects people living with long-term chronic conditions like arthritis or endometriosis.
The NICE guideline recommends that people with chronic pain should NOT be started on commonly used drugs, such as paracetamol, NSAIDs or opioids, due to potentially harmful side effects and the risk of addiction. Opioids, NSAIDs and paracetamol (which is classified as an acetaminophen) fall under the term ‘analgesic’, this means any drug used to achieve ‘analgesia’ relief from pain. These do not include anti-depressants.
What are NSAIDs?
NSAIDs, which stands for non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are anti-inflammatories, like ibuprofen.
NSAID side effects
Like all medication that is artificially created, NSAIDs are well-known for causing some or all of the following side effects2:
What are opioids?
Opioids are slightly different. They’re very strong painkillers, like morphine, that work by interacting with the opioid receptors in your brain cells. Brain cells then release signals that reduce the feeling of pain and boost the feelings of pleasure, which explains why the drugs can become highly addictive.
Opioids side effects
Opioids can cause some or all these side effects3:
What are the alternatives?
The NICE guideline recommends that anyone in chronic pain should ask their doctor to review their medication to discuss safer and more effective pain treatment alternatives. This may include a lower level of carefully chosen drugs, but also likely will include alternative or natural pain relief and some of the following therapies, exercises, and treatments:
- Physical therapy – a short course of physical therapy from a physiotherapist or similar can assist in managing your pain by teaching you positive ways to stretch and keep moving.
- Exercise programmes – When managing pain, it’s important to keep active wherever possible. Regular, light movement that doesn’t cause too much strain, like walking, swimming, cycling, or gardening is often recommended.
- Acupuncture – This ancient Chinese treatment requires the insertion of needles into the skin. Stimulating the nerves under the skin and the muscles provokes the body to produce natural pain-relieving endorphins.
- Yoga – More than just a form of exercise, yoga can help people with arthritis, migraines and lower back pain as it stretches the muscles and increases mobility. With its breath control and meditation, yoga places an emphasis on mental well-being, which can in turn help physical well-being.
- Chiropractic treatment – This is the most common non-surgical treatment for back pain and may also be useful for different types of pain management, for example, headaches and neck pain. The treatment is a hands-on massage to properly align the body’s musculoskeletal structure and spine.
- BioWaveGO’s high-frequency electrical currents go right to the nerve, blocking pain at its source for up to eight hours of deep relief. As it’s 100% drug-free, BioWaveGO has no harmful side effects.
Find out more about how our innovative, drug-free, pain-blocking technology works.