Opioid drugs such as codeine, Vicodin, and fentanyl are highly effective for the relief of chronic pain. At the same time, these medications also present a serious risk of dependency developing with long-term use, which is why such drugs are only meant to be used on a short-term basis. As a result, there are a slew of regulations regarding prescriptions and refills. If you’re on opioids for pain relief, Santa Monica spine surgeons suggest keeping these 5 tips in mind.
1. Plan Ahead
Prevent disruptions in your access to medications, especially if you are taking opioid medications on a long-term basis, by planning ahead as much as possible. Schedule your next doctor’s appointment before you leave each one current appointment. Use one pharmacy as your source for medications to prevent issues with refills. If you have to go to the ER because of your pain, take your meds with you.
2. Keep Prescription Paperwork Handy
You may find yourself in a situation where you’ll have to explain why you have bottles of opioid medications, such as trying to get through airport security. Prevent misunderstandings by carrying your prescription paperwork with you or having instant access to it on your smartphone.
3. Ask About Virtual Options
If you have difficulty going to regular in-person visits to your doctor, ask if there are virtual options. Some healthcare providers have provisions for online appointments via services like Skype or through your webcam. Such arrangements aren’t meant to replace all face-to-face appointments, but it can be a convenient way to meet requirements to get a renewal on your opioid prescription.
4. Safely Manage Pain Flare-Ups
Don’t assume you can safely take more of your opioids if you experience spikes in pain, which sometimes happens when dosages wear off or if you do something to trigger pain. Instead, ask your doctor what you should do in such situations. In some cases, another type of medication may be prescribed specifically for flare-ups.
5. Explore Stress Management Techniques
Chronic pain has many possible triggers, including stress and anxiety. Learning effective stress management through techniques such as deep breathing, mindful meditation, or yoga may ease your reliance on opioid painkillers.
Because opioid painkillers aren’t meant to be a permanent source of chronic pain relief, be open to exploring other pain management methods. In addition to physical therapy that includes muscle strengthening exercises and passive treatments like the application of heat or ice, you may also benefit from chiropractic manipulations, electrical nerve stimulation, alternative remedies such as acupuncture, or perhaps even minimally invasive spine surgery.
If your medications don’t seem to be relieving your pain and you’re interested in other treatment options, reach out to Dr. Hyun Bae at The Spine Institute Center. Dr. Bae specializes in spinal fusion and decompression techniques like the laminectomy back surgery Santa Monica patients sometimes receive. Call 310-828-7757 today to schedule an appointment.