Why Opioids Can Actually Make Your Back Pain Feel Worse

Category: Spine Pain | Author: Stefano Sinicropi

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Opioids can play a pivotal role in helping a person recover after surgery or while they are working their way back from a painful injury, but as we’ve said on the blog in the past, there isn’t a magic pill that can help completely resolve your spinal issue. Opioids can certainly help to drown out pain signals, but used incorrectly, and they can actually make your back pain worse. Below, we take a closer look at how opioids can actually be detrimental to your back condition, and how to ensure they help with your rehab instead of hindering it.

How Opioids Can Make Spine Pain Worse

At their very core, painkillers and opioids are designed to help drown out pain signals and make life a little easier for the person suffering from back pain. However, if you aren’t mindful about how you use them, they can end up doing more harm than good. Here’s what you need to know and watch out for to ensure opioids help with your rehabilitation.

  1. Not A Long Term Solution – Opioids aren’t designed to be taken indefinitely. The longer you’re on opioids, the more your body gets used to the drug and the less effective they become. All of a sudden you need to take a higher dosage just to feel the same effects, and that’s counterproductive to healing and can put you at risk of dependency and overdose. Know coming into your care plan that opioids aren’t meant to be a long-term option.
  2. False Sense Of Relief – Opioids don’t work to treat the underlying issue. Instead, they help to mask the symptoms. This can be helpful so that you can more easily pursue active treatments like exercise, weight loss and physical therapy, but it can also give patients a false sense of relief. If patients think that their pain is gone, they may fall back into bad habits that only continue to cause problems for their spine. Don’t jump back into physical activity or forgo your posture correction techniques simply because you’re having a “good day” thanks to painkillers. It’s great that you’re feeling better, but know that you need to use this time to pursue other long-term treatments in order to help treat the underlying issue.
  3. Medication Side Effects – Painkillers can lead to a number of unwanted side effects, both mentally and physically, and this can make it harder to achieve total pain relief. Some medications can lead to worsening feelings of depression or anxiety, and these feelings can cause problems for your ability to complete your rehab exercises as needed. Doctors will regularly ask how you’re feeling while on your medication, and be sure that you’re open and honest about any side effects. They can adjust your medication if there are any unwanted side effects that are complicating your recovery.
  4. Interrupted Sleep – Another delicate balance that needs to be monitored is how opioids are affecting your sleeping habits. As we touched on above, painkillers can present with some unwanted side effects, including making it harder to fall asleep or stay asleep. Used correctly, patients may be able to achieve restful sleep thanks to well-timed painkillers, but anxiousness and insomnia can also develop, inhibiting restorative sleep.
  5. Can Inhibit Necessary Movement – Movement, exercise, strength training and physical therapy are all important parts of your treatment and recovery, and sometimes opioids can end up discouraging this movement. Opioids can serve to put you in an overly relaxed state and cripple your motivation to do what needs to be done to overcome your spine issue. Again, when used correctly these medications can make it easier to perform some physical tasks that are too uncomfortable because of pain, but be aware that they can leave you feeling too relaxed or groggy to pursue the active treatments you need. Talk with your doctor about any concerns you have regarding your ability to perform exercise while taking medication.

All in all, opioids can be a perfect compliment to a comprehensive treatment plan, but know that they can have some unintended side effects and work against your recovery if not used correctly. If you have questions or concerns about opioids and your back pain, reach out to your provider or Dr. Sinicropi and the team at The Midwest Spine & Brain Institute. For more information, or for help with a spinal issue, give our team a call today at (651) 430-3800.

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