Alternative Options

Prevalence of pain

Most people have experienced pain at some point in their lives. In fact, pain is one of the most common reasons for consulting a health care professional. Pain is complex. It can be helpful to understand pain as falling in two categories: acute or chronic. Acute pain is generally understood as pain that lasts less than three months while chronic pain extends beyond three months. Living with pain, especially chronic pain, can be difficult and has the potential to negatively impact daily living activities and overall wellbeing.

There are many options to consider for managing pain. Although medications have long been considered an obvious solution to treat pain, there are different treatment options that can be effective. These can be used instead of, or in addition to medication options as part of a comprehensive treatment plan. Be prepared to explore a variety of treatment modalities/options with your primary care provider.

Making the most out of your appointment with your primary care provider

Being informed on opioids and other options for managing pain will help ensure that your time with your primary care provider is optimised. Keep your doctor up to date on your symptoms, your progress, and any questions or concerns you may have with your treatment plan. By being well informed, you can take a more active role in establishing your treatment plan and recovery goals.

Setting recovery goals can be helpful in measuring how well your treatment is progressing. Goals will be unique to everyone. Understanding your type of pain will help you set realistic and achievable goals for your recovery. A common misconception is that treatment will eliminate all pain. While this can be the case for some, others may experience longer lasting, chronic pain or even breakthrough pain from time to time. The key is to understand pain and its causes and learning good coping skills to help you deal with chronic or episodic of pain in your life.

Understanding the different options for pain management

It is important that you work with your primary care provider to determine the best modes of treatment for you. Keep in mind that a particular option may work differently for everyone, and even may work differently on the same type of pain. There is no one size fits all. You may find you have to try different treatment modalities before finding out what works best for you. This website is a good starting point. Here you will find information on some of the different options that can be explored. Talk to your primary care provider as you progress through your treatment plan.

Patients and health care providers are increasingly looking for the best multifaceted approach to treating pain because of the known prevalence and burden of chronic pain, and because relying on opioids alone carries substantial risks and may be ineffective. Talk to your primary care provider to understand the risks and benefits of all your treatment options.  You may be surprised to know that there are many different possibilities for treating pain. In fact, your primary care provider may suggest you try a non-opioid option first, or a combination of opioid and non-opioid treatment modalities to treat pain. The 2017 Canadian Guideline for Opioids for Chronic Non-Cancer Pain recommends optimizing non-opioid pharmacotherapy and non-pharmacological therapy before trialing opioids for patients with chronic, non-cancer pain.

Pain medications commonly work by mimicking the body’s own pain relief system; many non-pharmacological therapies work by producing those chemicals naturally or by mitigating the adverse stimuli causing the pain. The Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health (CADTH) provides up to date information on non-pharmacological therapies. Divided under three categories (phycological, physical, and preventive), these therapies can be used on their own or in combination with pharmacotherapy, which is often more effective. To help support evidence-informed decision-making regarding the management of chronic pain, CADTH has reviewed and summarized the evidence from various sources for some of the interventions that fall into these three categories. Click on any of the following links to access CADTH resources on these therapeutic options.

Non-Drug Ways to Manage Your Chronic Pain: Physical Methods

In this section you will find information relating to the human body and its natural ability to manage pain. Physical methods of pain management involve using one’s own body to help reduce pain. There are many ways to do this, such as through one’s own movement or with the help of a health care provider who can perform a therapy on your body. Exercise, acupuncture, and manual therapy are some physical methods that may be helpful in managing chronic pain. Click here to learn more.

Non-Drug Ways to Manage Your Chronic Pain: Psychological Methods

In this section you will find information on psychological methods to help you understand the connection between thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. How a person thinks affects how she/he feels. You may be able to change your pain or how you feel about it by changing your thoughts and how you respond to pain. Mindfulness, cognitive behavioral therapy (also called CBT), and yoga are other examples that may be helpful in safely managing chronic pain. Click here to learn more.

Non-Drug Ways to Manage Your Chronic Pain: Preventive Methods

In this section you will find information on ways you can manage pain and prevent it from getting worse. There are methods that can be helpful in preventing pain from leading to other health problems. Using splints or braces, keeping a healthy weight, and wearing foot orthotics are some preventive methods that may help you safely manage chronic pain. For more information, click here to learn more.