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Sheltering Arms Blog

How to Manage Your Low Back Pain without Opioids

Posted on: October 27, 2020 by Clinicians Editor

By: Elisabeth Flannery, PT, DPT, CSCS

Low back pain can significantly impact your life both at home and at work. The pain can be enough to drive many patients to see a doctor about their symptoms. After an initial consultation, patients may receive a referral to physical therapy to manage their symptoms; however, despite a referral, some patients do not believe physical therapy can truly help manage their pain.

Those in pain may avoid movement for fear of increasing “damage” to the low back; however immobilization and constant rest leads to weaker muscles and decreased ability for stabilizing muscles to support the spine. Another reason for this belief is that changes in body structure and reduced symptoms may take weeks or even months to notice with targeted, daily, progressive exercise and patients may be unwilling to wait for the positive effects of exercise due to limited health education or constant, severe pain.

Patients may experience quick symptom relief with prescription opioids, but many individuals are unaware of long-term opioid addiction risk. Prescription opioids may initially improve exercise and activity tolerance after an injury; however, medication should be tapered as soon as possible to avoid prolonged use with masking effects, which can lead to addiction.

To avoid addiction and long-term opioid use, consider the following three tips:

  1. Talk to your doctor about decreasing prescription opioid use while increasing exercise dosage as prescribed by your physical therapist. This will help you transition to healthier management of your condition through the body’s internal processes.
  2. Consult with your physical therapist to learn appropriate exercises to manage your condition. Promoting painful movements can increase joint inflammation and prolong the recovery process.
  3. Keep moving within pain-free limits! Exercise regularly to produce “natural opioids” through movement to produce similar long-term pain management as prescription opioids. Extended exercise-based symptom management can cause longer-lasting, more permanent changes with fewer side effects than extended opioid use.

If you need help developing an exercise program to recover from an injury, Sheltering Arms therapists can help you. Click here to learn more.