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Alternatives To Opioids For Pain Relief – Natural Solutions That Show Promise

06 April 2023

Key Points

  • Opioids refer to a group of powerful medications that are used for the treatment of pain. These can include both legal and illegal forms, ranging from prescription medications like morphine to illegal substances like heroin.
  • While opioids are often prescribed as a way to manage pain in patients with chronic conditions, they have also been misused by those who may not need them. Opioid use is also associated with side effects such as nausea, vomiting and constipation.
  • Natural alternatives to opioids for pain relief are a promising area of research. These alternatives are generally safer and do not cause the same degree of side effects as opioids.
  • Alternatives to opioids that show promise include medical cannabis, vitamin B-12 shots, physical therapy and more. They can be combined with other methods, such as traditional painkillers, in a pain management program.
  • Medical cannabis is one of the most commonly cited alternatives to opioids for pain relief. Several studies show that it can be effective in treating chronic pain by reducing inflammation and pain perception.
  • Lyphe is the UK’s leading medical cannabis clinic. We provide medical cannabis prescriptions, as well as advice and support. Our team is made up of doctors, nurses and pharmacists who will guide you through the process.

Young woman holding a glass of water and taking a pill.

Introduction

Did you know that the UK has the world’s highest consumption rate of opioids? Approximately 13% of the adult population have been prescribed an opioid at one point in their lives. Unfortunately, the UK also has one of the highest rates of opioid addiction in the world.

There are serious consequences to opioid use. For every 115,000 prescriptions written daily in the UK, five people die from taking them. In recent times, overdoses have increased by 87%. Nearly 45% of prescriptions fall under the “over-prescribed” category, leading to a loss to the NHS of about £100 million per year.

The need for a safer painkiller is clear. Luckily, there are natural alternatives to opioids available that can help relieve pain without the risk of addiction.

In this article, we’ll look at some scientifically and clinically backed alternatives to opioids. We’ll discuss why they work and how you can use them to reduce pain associated with various health conditions.

1. Medical Cannabis

Cannabis has been used to treat pain for centuries. In fact, it was often prescribed by doctors as a treatment for various conditions and illnesses in the 19th century.

In recent years, there’s been growing interest in using cannabis as a painkiller because of its potential health benefits. Many people are now turning to medical cannabis instead of opioids for their chronic pain.

Studies have shown that cannabis may help reduce both chronic and acute pain. In fact, a recent study found that medical cannabis was more effective than prescription painkillers at treating certain types of chronic pain.

How does cannabis reduce pain?

There’s evidence that cannabis’ analgesic effects come from its anti-inflammatory properties. One study found that cannabis use was associated with a 64 per cent reduction in pain from inflammation. The results of another study found that the combination of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) can reduce chronic neuropathic pain by up to 50 per cent.

Cannabis may reduce the risk of opioid addiction

Cannabis may also help to reduce the risk of developing opioid addiction. It’s been shown to reduce opioid use and abuse among patients with chronic conditions such as fibromyalgia, arthritis and back pain.

One study published in The Journal of Pain found that medical cannabis patients were able to reduce their opioid use by 64%. Another study published in the European Journal of Internal Medicine revealed similar results. It showed that when people used both opioids and medical cannabis, they were able to reduce their intake of prescription painkillers by 66%.

However, getting medical cannabis is not as easy as going to your local pharmacy. And you shouldn’t even think about trying to obtain it through illegal means if you want to use this substance to relieve pain safely and effectively. What you should do is get a prescription from a licensed medical professional who can thoroughly evaluate your health, determine whether medical cannabis can help you, and assess how it may interact with other mediations you’re taking. If you’re interested in learning more about using medical cannabis as an alternative to opioids, book an appointment with a doctor at Lyphe, the biggest medical cannabis clinic in the UK, today. 

2. Herbal Supplements

Variety of vitamin and mineral pills in wooden spoon on coloured background.

Herbal supplements are another option for those who want to reduce their dependence on opioids. Herbal supplements are plant-based medicines that have been used for thousands of years. They’re usually taken in capsule form, and they can be found at most natural health stores or online.

Examples include:

  • Curcumin is a compound found in turmeric. It’s been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties and has been linked to lower rates of depression.
  • Boswellia serrata is a tree resin that comes from India. It’s used for its ability to reduce pain and inflammation in Ayurvedic medicine.
  • Ashwagandha is a herb that has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for over 3,000 years. One study found that it can help reduce pain and anxiety caused by arthritis.
  • White willow bark is a herb that’s been used in traditional medicine for centuries. It contains a compound called salicin, which can help reduce pain and inflammation.

Despite the fact that these supplements are non-addictive and don’t produce a high as opioids do, they are not a substitute for prescription pain medications. It’s best to treat them as another option in your arsenal of treatment options.

3. Physical Therapy

Physiotherapist helps young patient with pilates exercises.

Physical therapy can be a great way to treat chronic pain. It can help you regain strength and mobility, which can make it easier to perform daily activities without pain. In some cases, physical therapy may be able to decrease your reliance on medications as well.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the US recommends physical therapy for pain involving the lower back, hips, knees and fibromyalgia. One study found that patients who underwent physical therapy experienced a 63% reduction in pain after just one month, and this effect increased to 72% after three months.

Physical therapy can be done in many different ways. You may work with a physical therapist, who will help you strengthen your muscles and improve your flexibility. They may also teach you specific exercises to do at home between appointments.

4. Vitamin B-12 Shots

Back pain is often caused by a vitamin B-12 deficiency. Some people, such as the elderly and gastric bypass patients, experience this problem more frequently than others. In these cases, taking vitamin B-12 shots may be of great help.

A 2019 review suggests that Vitamin B-12 may work synergistically with standard medication, including nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines and opiates. The researchers suggested that Vitamin B12 might be used to complement traditional treatments for pain.

The human body doesn’t produce Vitamin B-12 naturally—it only comes from animal products like meat, poultry, eggs and dairy products. Because many people are lactose intolerant or vegan, they may not be able to get enough of this essential vitamin through their diet. In these cases, taking vitamin B-12 shots can help restore the body’s supply and relieve back pain.

It is important that you consult a doctor before taking vitamin B-12 shots (they are not recommended for everyone). They can cause side effects like nausea and diarrhoea, but they are usually well tolerated. People who have low levels of stomach acid may experience abdominal pain after taking them.

5. Extracorporeal Pulse Activation Technology (EPAT)

Extracorporeal Pulse Activation Technology (EPAT) is a new, non-invasive treatment method that uses high-energy sound waves to target pain in the body. It’s typically used on injured soft tissue and may be able to treat a variety of conditions, including tendonitis, muscle spasms and strains.

The treatment is painless and non-invasive, so it can be an option for those who do not want to undergo surgery. It may also work on patients who do not respond to conventional treatments like prescription use. As an alternative to opioids, EPAT works best on localised pain.

It has been shown in clinical studies to significantly reduce pain levels caused by chronic tendinopathy. One study even showed that after just one EPAT session, 75% of patients reported significant improvement in their symptoms.

6. Acupuncture

Acupuncture is a form of treatment that uses needles to stimulate specific points on the body. Acupuncture has been used for thousands of years, and it can help relieve pain, nausea and other symptoms.

Acupuncture is being used increasingly in the United States to treat chronic pain. A study published in 2015 found that acupuncture is effective in treating headaches and back pain.

Another study published in 2017 found that acupuncture may be effective at reducing fatigue in patients with cancer or HIV/AIDS. However, these studies were small and had limitations.

Further research is needed to determine if taking advantage of acupuncture’s benefits would be helpful for people dealing with opioid addiction or suffering from withdrawal symptoms.

7. Chiropractic Care

Female therapist manipulating shoulder blade on young female patient.

Chiropractic care is a form of alternative medicine that focuses on the relationship between the spine and other body systems. Chiropractors treat patients by manipulating joints to restore function, improve mobility, reduce pain and increase comfort.

This remedy may be helpful for back pain, neck pain, headaches and other musculoskeletal problems. Some chiropractors also use heat, cold and massage therapy along with adjustments. Chiropractic care is usually provided by a licensed practitioner trained in spinal manipulation and other manual therapies.

8. Meditation

Another wonderful way to naturally manage your pain is through meditation. Meditation has been practised for thousands of years, with the goal of helping people achieve a relaxed state by focusing on breathing and physical relaxation. If you’re not sure how to meditate, there are plenty of resources online that can teach you how to do so effectively.

Meditation can be particularly helpful if you’re dealing with chronic pain. It helps your body release endorphins and reduces stress levels, two factors that play a role in how much bodily discomfort we feel.

9. Yoga

Senior woman meditating during yoga training.

Yoga is a great way to relieve pain and stress. Yoga helps you focus on your breathing, which can help you relax. Getting back into shape can also be beneficial for those struggling with chronic pain.

Yoga has been shown to help people manage their chronic pain and depression. It offers a chance to be mindful of your body, which can help reduce stress levels and make you less susceptible to addiction issues in the future.

10. Biofeedback and Neurofeedback

Biofeedback and neurofeedback are non-invasive treatment options that can be done in the comfort of your own home. They involve using sensors to monitor your body’s responses, such as heart rate, muscle tension and brain waves.

Biofeedback involves learning to control these responses through relaxation techniques such as meditation or guided imagery.

Neurofeedback is similar but also involves stimulating specific parts of the brain with electrodes placed on the scalp or forehead. Both methods are known to help reduce symptoms of chronic pain by resetting how our nervous system responds to stressors like physical injury or emotional distress.

Conclusion

There’s no doubt that dealing with chronic pain can be devastating. Opioids help pain sufferers deal with their condition, but they’re not without serious risks. Long-term opioid use has been linked to addiction, overdosing and even death.

The good news is that natural remedies may provide some relief for those who can’t take opioids or who don’t want the medication’s side effects. Not only can they help sufferers cope with pain, but these natural pain relief options can also be used in conjunction with other treatments as well.

With more research on alternatives for pain management, there may be an even greater variety of options in the future. Medical cannabis is one of the most promising alternatives to opioids, and it has many potential uses. Research suggests that cannabis and its derivatives can help reduce pain levels, as well as improve sleep quality and mood.

If you’re looking for opioid alternatives, you may want to consider using medical cannabis. At Lyphe, we specialise in helping patients find a pain program that works for them. Contact us today to learn more about how our cannabis-based therapies can help you reduce or eliminate your reliance on opioids.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What can I use instead of opioids?

There are many options available to treat pain without relying on opioids. These include over-the-counter medications like acetaminophen, NSAIDs and muscle relaxants, as well as alternative methods like medical cannabis and herbal supplements.

Are endorphins natural opioids?

Yes, endorphins are considered the body’s natural opiates. When endorphins are released (through exercise or other activities), they can provide pain relief, reduce stress and anxiety, and improve your mood.

Why are opiates not recommended?

Opiates are not recommended because they can be addictive and have a high risk of side effects. If you are considering taking them, it’s important that you speak with your doctor about the risks and benefits of using opiates.

Can medical cannabis replace opioids?

Cannabis has been shown to be an effective treatment for pain, but it’s not a replacement for opioids. It’s important that you speak with your doctor about whether or not cannabis is right for you.

What plant is a natural painkiller?

Cannabis is a natural painkiller that can be used to treat chronic pain. It can also help people who are addicted to opioids kick their habit.

References

https://www.priorygroup.com/blog/opioids-understanding-the-current-state-in-the-uk

https://www.asahq.org/madeforthismoment/pain-management/non-opioid-treatment/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK574543/

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0735675718303255

https://journals.lww.com/plasreconsurg/Abstract/2019/10000/Safety_of_Postoperative_Opioid_Alternatives_in.43.aspx

https://www.mayoclinic.org/medical-professionals/physical-medicine-rehabilitation/news/sports-medicine-practitioners-embrace-benefits-of-extracorporeal-shock-wave-therapy/mac-20454275

Author: Bojan
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Bojan Ambrus, Head of Marketing & Digital Product at Lyphe Group, is a data-driven growth marketing professional with over 15 years of rich experience. His background includes roles such as Head of Marketing at Vaping.com and growth marketing roles in various enterprises, startups, and scale-ups. His expertise in building and positioning businesses is particularly valuable in the cannabis sector, where he navigates its complexities and regulatory challenges. His strategic marketing insights make Bojan a key player in shaping Lyphe Group's marketing and digital product strategies.

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