Alternatives to opioids

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — As part of our effort to help fight the opioid crisis, ABC27 looked into alternatives for treating pain.

Four of the most common conditions that give people chronic pain are osteoarthritis, lower back pain, diabetic neuropathy, and fibromyalgia.

Alosa Health is a national research group focused on finding patients relief without opioids. Doctors turn to Alosa for advice on opioid alternatives.

Alosa nurse Sue Reeves says the research shows there are seven alternatives to opioids when it comes to easing the pain of osteoarthritis: exercise, physical therapy, tai chi, acupuncture, massage, and oral and topical NSAIDs.

For lower back pain, the research points to tai chi, acupuncture, and oral NSAIDs.

For diabetic neuropathy, it’s the drug Cymbalta, and for fibromyalgia, it’s tai chi and Cymbalta.

Reeves knows that some patients with chronic pain insist that only opioids work. She agrees that there is a place for opioids; her own 88-year-old mother takes 10 milligrams of OxyContin every day.

“I can tell you that the side effects outweigh the benefits when it comes to opioids and chronic pain,” she said. “I will tell you that is where the evidence lies.”

One issue with opioid alternatives is the cost.

Insurance companies are getting better about paying for things like acupuncture, physical therapy, and massage, but those are still often more expensive than a prescription for opioids.

If you or a loved one needs help recovering from addiction, this phone number is a good one to call. 1-800-622-HELP (4357). It’s a hotline that’s staffed by trained professionals 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

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