Your health: treating pain without drugs

LANSING, Mich. (WILX) — Every day in the United States, 130 people die from an opioid overdose — sometimes the drugs are obtained illegally or they can be prescribed by a doctor to relieve pain after surgery.

Following an epidemic of opioid addiction and death, there is a growing movement among surgeons to find other ways to successfully manage post-operative pain.

For years, Oxycontin, Percocet, and Vicodin have been a mainstay in post-surgery pain management. Plastic and reconstructive surgeon at Mercy Medical Center, Dr. Lauren Nigro, said she and many of her colleagues recommend non-narcotic alternatives for patients, even for procedures that require weeks of recovery time, such as a tummy tuck.

“It has a lot to do with the size of the cuts we make,” Nigro said. “And that has a lot to do with sewing those muscles together.”

But Nigro said that in recent years there has been a movement to address pain before, during and after the procedure. Before, patients were often prescribed Tylenol or another acetaminophen for several days. During, doctors administer a long-acting nerve block that can last three or four days. Afterwards, doctors sometimes prescribe nonopioid gabapentin, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and in some cases, a Botox injection.

“There’s actually a substance that inhibits substance P, which involves the pain pathway,” Nigro said.

She said it’s important to use pain management methods before and during surgery, so patients don’t suddenly experience uncontrollable pain afterwards, leading to taking more than necessary.

Doctors still prescribe opioids for pain relief and chronic disease, but in some states doctors limit the prescription to ten pills or a week’s worth of medication.

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