Everyone has experienced pains at one point or another. And so many of us know what it is like to experience severe aches and pains in the back, leg or head, even for a short while.
Painkillers are often taken for temporary relief, but it is common for people living with chronic pain to become dependent or addicted to painkillers.
Yes, it is not just cocaine or heroin that people abuse; thousands of Nigerians are in the grip of a deadly drug addiction — to everyday painkillers commonly known as analgesic.
Though these drugs give short relief, doctors warn that overdependence on them may create greater health challenge than users can handle.
According to a report by Michael House Pain Treatment and Alcohol Centre, Palm Beach, United States of America, taking any painkiller for a long period of time will most likely lead to the development of a tolerance and physical dependence upon the drug.
But then, how do you know you have reached the point of addiction? General practitioner, Dr. Lanre Salami, says someone is said to be addicted to painkillers when taking the drug has become the only ‘treatment’ for the chronic or slight pain the person feels in any part of his body and he no longer has control over their use.
He states that since most pain relief medications contain nicotine, caffeine and Ibruprofen, it is easier to get addicted to them.
Salami adds, “It’s a health issue, as well as a mental and physical issue, and this addiction can have serious consequences, depending on how long you have been using them, even to cure pain or aches.”
Apart from addiction, experts warn that there are three main health concerns when using painkillers to treat pain over a long period. One is that the pain you are trying to repress or cure may become worse.
The Director, Pain Management and Research Institute, New York, Prof. Michael Nicholas, adds that painkillers are psychotropic drugs and their prolonged use could cause mood changes and sedation and eventually lead to depression.
Nicholas notes that these painkillers are only useful for treating short-term pain, and never intended to treat long-term pain.
“None of these drugs will fix the problem. All they do is cover it and that’s when people get into trouble. They increase the dose themselves. You can actually end up feeling more pain with the drugs you are taking because you get more sensitised. And as the drugs wear off, so people take more and then they have more side effects.”
However, with the rigour of living in a socially and physically demanding 21st century, pain is more common than ever and so is the increased use of pain medication.
But how do you manage your pain without drugs?
The doctors say one must understand the cause, and how to prevent it or seek treatment.
Nicholas notes that it’s important to correct the root cause of pain, while managing it may require the help of a doctor or a pain specialist and other health professionals. Therefore, visit the hospital.
But not to worry, there are some natural remedies and quite simple lifestyle changes that could stop the pain and get one off painkillers. One of them is physical exercise. A health and fitness expert, Valerie Johnston, says the brain releases chemicals known as endorphins during exercise, which block pain signals and also serve as mood boosters.
Johnston adds, “Any form of physical exercise also works on other levels to reduce pain. By strengthening your muscles, increasing your mobility, improving your range of motion, increasing your endurance, and improving your cardio health, your body’s resistance to pain will increase naturally.”
As expected, stress has a way of intensifying pain. Johnston notes that negative emotions which arise from being stressed out could cause the body to tense up, which could aggravate existing aches.
She recommends stress reduction techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, and guided imagery that naturally relax both the body and mind.
“As you learn to live a more relaxed, stress-free life, you will progressively be able to manage your pain more effectively. Knowing how to access a mental escape will be of great benefit for moving out of your pain and into a more peaceful state of mind.”
She also states that poor diet is one of the key culprits in causing inflammation and pain.
According to her, individuals who are overweight and/or malnourished are much more prone to chronic pain, adding that a variety of vegetables, fresh fruit, whole grains, omega-3 fatty acids, beans, peas, nuts, and other healthy food choices, while reducing unhealthy foods, can reduce back and neck pain, as well as headaches.
Johnston says, “Proper nutrition, in combination with exercise, will result in a stronger body that is better able to combat pain and a number of other health problems that can lead to chronic pain.”
Culled from www.punchng.com