What to do if You’re Afraid of Painkillers After Spine Surgery

Category: Spine Surgery, Surgery Recovery | Author: Stefano Sinicropi


Regardless of whether you have a history of opioid abuse or you’re just worried that you may end up addicted to them following your operation, it’s not uncommon to want to avoid or limit your painkiller intake following a spine surgery. Opioids can be extremely addictive, and every year thousands of surgery patients end up developing an unhealthy relationship with painkillers following their operation. Because of this, many patients ask us if it’s possible for them to avoid painkillers after their spine surgery.

Painkillers are typically prescribed following spine surgery, but there are some things that can be done to reduce the strength or the length of your prescription. In today’s blog, we explain how we work with the patient if they are uneasy about beginning an opioid regimen following spine surgery.

Decreasing Opioid Use After Spine Surgery

Here’s a look at all the ways we work with patients to help them overcome a fear of opioids and get them on a weaker or shorter prescription plan following surgery.

  • Talking About Pain Pre-Op – It’s important that the patient understands what recovery will be like before they undergo surgery. The surgeon needs to ensure they understand that they will have some discomfort. Mentally preparing for the right amount of pain and discomfort can make it easier to handle without overreliance on opioids.
  • Developing A Safe Prescription Plan – If you don’t understand the safest way to take your specific prescription, you’re at a heightened risk for abuse and dependence. Your surgeon or your care team will carefully explain how to manage prescriptions after you’ve been discharged. If you have any questions or concerns during this time, please ask, and if you’re wondering if you could have a smaller dose than normally recommended, share these concerns or wishes with your care team.
  • Minimally Invasive Procedure – To reduce your need for prescription medications, trust your operation to a surgeon who has a wealth of experience successfully performing minimally invasive operations. Minimally invasive procedures require less trauma to the body, lead to faster recovery times, and can greatly reduce your need for long-term opioids after your surgery.
  • Physical Therapy – Studies have shown that pre- and post-operative physical therapy can greatly help to reduce pain and discomfort while simultaneously increasing your physical function. All of these factors can help to reduce your reliance on opioids following a spinal procedure. Physical therapy may be uncomfortable in the short-term, but it can help you be pain free in the long-term, which can help you finish an opioid program sooner.
  • The Buddy System –  Finally, if you’re really worried about access to medications at home, be it for yourself or because you have others in the household who may be tempted by pain pills, have someone you trust manage your medications or keep them locked up so only you have access. If you have fears, either about yourself or a child, enlist someone else to hold everyone accountable.

It’s completely normal to have some apprehension about beginning or ending an opioid regimen, but we’re here to help you any way we can. If you have questions about pain control following your upcoming spinal procedure, or to talk to a specialist about your back pain, reach out to Dr. Sinicropi’s clinic today at (651) 430-3800.

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