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5 Nonopioid Pain Management Strategies

For a patient, there’s really no such thing as “minor” surgery. Even relatively routine procedures can involve incisions that leave patients in significant pain during their recovery period. While anesthesia usually reduces or eliminates pain during the procedure itself, hospitals and medical professionals must have a plan in place to help patients manage postoperative pain as well.

For many years, patients were prescribed opioid drugs such as OxyCotin, Percocet, and fentanyl. While these drugs can be very effective, they’re also highly addictive. Many patients aren’t properly educated about how to use and handle these drugs properly, resulting in about 25% of patients misusing them. Even worse, 8-12% of opioid users develop a dependency. Given the risks associated with these powerful drugs, medical professionals should consider alternative pain management strategies following surgical procedures.

5 NonopioId Pain Management Strategies

Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDS)

Sometimes the simplest solutions are the most effective. Conventional, over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen (Motrin and Advil), acetaminophen (Tylenol), and naproxen (Aleve and Naprosyn) can often be just as effective as opioids following some surgeries. A study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association in 2018 divided 240 patients suffering from chronic pain into two groups. One group was prescribed opioids and the other a regimen of NSAIDS (ranging from acetaminophen to drugs requiring authorization such as pregabalin and tramadol). After 12 months, the nonopioid group actually reported a greater reduction in overall pain intensity. Given the highly addictive nature of opioids (as well as other side effects like drowsiness, nausea, and constipation), it’s worth considering whether or not a physician believes they’re absolutely necessary for long-term pain management following surgery.

Preoperative Counseling

Many patients go into surgery not knowing quite what to expect during the recovery period. This leaves them unprepared for the pain they experience post-surgery and how to manage it. Presenting patients with pain management strategies while they’re actually experiencing pain and still recovering from the ordeal of surgery can leave them feeling overwhelmed. Without proper counseling and education about what to expect and how to manage their pain, patients are more likely to turn to opioids for relief. Even worse, they’re more likely to misuse those drugs when they’re dealing with unexpected, acute pain. Educating patients prior to surgery can help prepare them to manage pain effectively with nonopioid solutions.

Nonmedicinal Pain Management

For some patients, nonopioid medicinal approaches to pain management are both reassuring and effective. Acupuncture, massage, and even cognitive behavioral therapy can provide patients with tools and techniques to reduce pain and promote a positive attitude following surgery. For more severe cases, more intensive treatments like transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), which sends electrical pulses to targeted areas to reduce pain, may be necessary to achieve positive results. Even simple measures like applying ice and wearing a brace can ease discomfort and promote faster healing following surgery.

Multimodal Regimens

Relying on a single source of pain relief following surgery is usually less effective than taking a multimodal approach that incorporates a variety of pain management strategies. Multimodal methods utilizing more than two methods of pain relief have become increasingly common for many health providers. A study of joint replacements surgeries at 546 hospitals between 2006 and 2016 found that multimodal pain therapy, usually incorporating methods such as peripheral nerve block, NSAIDs, and COX-2 inhibitors, was used in 85.6% of cases and resulted in reduced opioid prescriptions, fewer respiratory and gastrointestinal complications, and decreased hospital length of stay. Utilizing different forms of medicine has the benefit of targeting pain from multiple directions, resulting in more effective relief and faster recovery times.

Better Closure Modalities

Traditional surgical closure methods, such as sutures and staples, often result in discomfort and prolonged recovery periods. The invasive nature of these modalities also increases the risk of inflammation and infection. Innovative new closure modalities like BandGrip Micro-Anchor Skin Closures provide completely nonopioidinvasive alternatives to traditional approaches. Utilizing patented micro-anchors to grip the skin firmly and pull wound edges together to allow for faster healing, BandGrip allows patients to get back to their normal lives quickly and with minimal disruption to their daily routine. Since the device has a smooth surface and low profile that prevents it from snagging on clothing or fabric, there’s no risk of pulling a stitch or putting additional strain on the skin during ambulation. The wound is covered completely, reducing the burden of wound care and the risk of infection. Patients can even take a shower within 24 hours of application. BandGrip promotes a faster, less intrusive healing process that reduces much of the need for more intensive pain management.

With opioid addiction escalating to the level of a true public health crisis in the United States, medical professionals should keep alternative methods of pain management in mind when advising patients post-surgery. Enduring a surgical procedure can be a difficult experience to go through. Patients need pain management strategies that allow them to get back to their lives as quickly as possible without exposing them to additional risks, making nonopioid regimens an ideal solution in many cases.

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