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Could Pain Management Devices Be the New Alternative to Opioids?

Could Pain Management Devices Be the New Alternative to Opioids?

Author: Shernide Delva

Pain management devices can drastically reduce, or eliminate, the need for opioid pain medication, according to a recent report.  Could this be the shift we’ve been looking for?

I’ll be honest.

The first time I heard about pain management devices is when I skimmed through my Facebook and saw a fundraising campaign regarding a product claiming to help women with extremely painful menstrual cramps. It was touted as “The off Switch for Menstrual Pain” and claimed to be “the new solution for instant pain relief from your period – no more pills, no more nonsense.”

When I read the description of the product, I was intrigued by the idea. I figured it was a better alternative to me taking half a bottle of ibuprofen every month. Clearly, I was not the only intrigued person. The product has fundraised over 1.7 million dollars, raising 1339% of their target goal. Wow.

But how exactly do these pain management devices work?

Looking deeper into it, it turns out that menstrual pain device is basically a fancy version of a TENS device. TENS stands for Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation. TENS machines operate by sending stimulating pulses across the surface of the skin and along the nerve strands. These pulses prevent pain signals from reaching the brain.

Every pain management device works in a slightly different way. Essentially, these pain management devices send small currents through the spinal cord where the pain is signaled.  Scientists believe these electrical currents interrupt pain signals sent to the brain. The fancy name for this is neuromodulation or neurostimulation.

These devices may work due to The Gate Control Theory.

The reality is that scientists are not completely sure how these devices work, but one theory is The Gate Control Theory. The Gate Control Theory is a theory that states that through closing the “gates” to painful input, you prevent pain sensations from traveling to the central nervous system. Large amounts of sensory information scramble the pain sensors we have and reduce our bodies ability to feel pain.

The device mentioned in the research regarding opioids is a device that is surgically implanted. While the results are promising, not everyone is comfortable with having a device surgically implanted in their body. Therefore, this solution is often seen as a last resort. This must change, according to Nagy Mekhail, a pain physician at the Cleveland Clinic.

Now, the medical community is looking to develop a device that provides the same sort of relief without the need for surgical implementation. One device developed is the Neuro-stim System Bridge which is placed behind a patient’s ear and gives off electrical pulses to certain areas of the brain.

The device has been very effective for helping people overcome the pain of opioid withdrawals, and is now used in 30 states. Patients wear the device for the first five days after they stop using opioids; the toughest part of the opioid withdrawal process.

“This could be a game changer in terms of treatment of addiction,” said Jeff Mathews, who runs the Union County Opiate Treatment Center in Indiana.

Still, not everyone is as excited.

Some are not quite convinced these devices will solve America’s chronic pain problem. Edward Michna, a pain management specialist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, states more research is needed to understand their long-term effectiveness.

“Have I seen patients do well on it? Yes. But I’ve also seen patients lose the relief over time,” he states.

However, despite the inconclusive research,  the potential for this to be an opioid alternative is a significant first step.

 “We need to stop thinking of pain control as just being about opioid medications,” Michael Leong, a pain specialist at the Stanford University School of Medicine, told Technology Review.

More and more people are aware of the negative side effects of opioid painkillers. With that awareness comes more attention directed toward pain management devices without a risk of addiction.

 “People are afraid of opioids right now. There’s a stigma. Patients don’t want to be on opioids,” Leong said.

We will have to keep an eye out and see if more non-surgical pain management products hit the market in the near future.

Pain management is a controversial topic. People have different pain tolerances and needs. However, there is a serious need to come up with non-addictive alternatives to opioid painkillers.

We are in the middle of an opioid epidemic. There need to be other options available. If you are currently struggling with substance abuse, please call now. We want to help.

CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135

Sports Injuries Increase the Risk of Drug Addiction

Sports Injuries Increase the Risk of Drug Addiction

(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)

Author: Shernide Delva

The benefits of playing sports are endless.  Any form of physical activity is good for the mind, body and spirit. Team sports teach you accountability, social skills, leadership, among many other traits. Growing up, I was involved in playing soccer and basketball. I was an average player at best, however, I learned so much about myself being involved in sports. I pushed myself beyond what I thought I was capable of, both mentally and physically.

However, the biggest danger of playing sports is getting injured.  Injuries and sports go hand and hand. A study even revealed that athletes could have a greater risk of developing a dependency to drugs due to their high risk of injury.

See, it starts off quite innocently.  An athlete suffers an injury and is prescribed an opioid painkiller to ease the pain during the healing process. The next thing you know, that same athlete finds themselves with an addiction to painkillers.

A recent article delves into this addiction crisis in sports. A Maryland doctor admits he sees this occurrence on a daily basis. What starts out as a simple sports injury leads into abuse of powerful, narcotic painkillers. And when the pills run out, teens often turn to a cheaper alternative: heroin.

In the article, Conner Ostrowski is used as an example. Conner was a varsity team wrestler with plans to attend college on a full scholarship. Suddenly, Conner’s plans were derailed when he suffered a life-changing injury and cracked the base of his spine during a match.

As you can imagine, this was very devastating for Conner. Conner was told he could never wrestle again. As a precaution, his mother told his surgeon not to prescribe him opiate-based medication. Addiction ran in the family, she said. However, Conner’s pain consumed him. Soon, he even became depressed.

A family member who had extra Percocet pills offered Conner a full bag. The rest, as explained by mother, Andrea Wildason, was history:

“So he took the Percocet, and you know, all the anxiety and the depression and the racing thoughts in his brain, he sort of went, ‘Ah,’ you know, and his back pain went away after one pill.”

Percocet is a highly addictive opioid. Conner went through the bag quickly and tried to find more at school, but he could not afford the high street value cost, so he turned to a cheaper alternative: heroin.

“He was sleeping, nodding off all the time, and he was angry. He became mean,” Wildason said.

Conner’s story is all too common. A 2014 study in the Journal of Adolescent Health found boys who participated in organized sports have higher odds of being prescribed opioid medication, putting them at greater risk of drug abuse.

Sports injuries, in many cases, are the gateway to drug addiction. Orthopedic surgeon Dr. Edward McDevitt says stories like these are all too common. Doctors are eager to help athletes get back to the team quickly.

“As a team doctor, you want to help them, so you give them medication, but sometimes you give them too strong a medication or on medication for too long, and once they’re on it for a length of time, they get addicted to it,” McDevitt said.

He said physicians need to take some responsibility.

“We have to realize that we are sometimes the ones who are steering these people on the road to addiction. We have to talk about the dangers of these drugs and how they should be used for a very short period of time,” McDevitt said.

McDevvitt believes other less addictive options should be explored before prescribing addictive painkillers. Alternatives like ibuprofen and acetaminophen can be very effective. Even physical therapy and ice can go a long way in treating an injury.

As for Conner, after several failed attempts, he is now three years sober.  The pain from his wrestling injury is still there but he has learned a valuable lesson.

“Pain doesn’t kill you. Addiction will, and he knows that. He knows that, and I hope everybody knows that,” Wildason said.

Parents should explore other pain relieving options that are less addictive.  If that does not work, carefully monitoring narcotic prescriptions and asking for a smaller dose could help prevent drug abuse.

What do you think? Are sports injuries contributing to teens abusing pain medications? Pain is a real thing, however knowing the dangers of addiction can help avoid a major problem. If you are struggling, it is time to finally overcome your dependence to opioid medications. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.

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