If everything hurts, and you’re becoming sensitive to pain, it’s time to ask why. For a significant number of people suffering from chronic pain, the source of their increased sensitivity may be the drugs that are supposed to fight the pain. This is cruel and ironic.
Long-term consumption of opioid painkillers like OxyContin®, Vicodin®, Percocet® and Lortab® may work against the long-term goals of chronic pain sufferers. These narcotic painkillers can increase patients’ suffering if taken for extended periods of time.
This is the conclusion of a growing number of medical researchers, who have linked the repeated use of pharmaceutical-grade opioids to a condition called hyperalgesia.
“Algesia” is a Greek word meaning “sensitivity to pain.” “Hyperalgesia” means “hyper sensitivity to pain.” If you have a chronic pain condition, hypersensitivity to pain (or hyperalgesia) is the last thing you want.
While hyperalgesia often occurs for unknown reasons after an injury, there is a unique category of the condition called opioid-induced hyperalgesia (OIH). In this case, the reason for the hypersensitivity is clear: the opioid pain medicine.
When this disorder develops, the discomfort of someone with chronic pain will seem to intensify, despite them using prescription painkillers and no change in the underlying condition responsible for their suffering.
There are a few ways you or doctor may notice hypersensitivity to pain (or hyperalgesia):
If you notice any of these symptoms and are taking opioid pain medication, talk to your doctor about them. Ask if they think you may be developing hyperalgesia. There is no test for the condition, but a doctor can make the diagnosis based on your symptoms.
It never hurts to ask about a non-narcotic pain management strategy. Depending on how severe your condition is and your physician’s comfort level with non-narcotic pain management, you may need a referral to a pain specialist or pain clinic that specializes in non-narcotic pain management.
Most people who take opioid medications for pain follow their doctors’ orders, develop tolerance over time and require increased doses, but they do not become addicted. Some people, however, do become addicted to opioids, which are in the same family as heroin. Without careful supervision by a physician, escalating use of opioids can lead to problems like addiction.
Only recently have researchers demonstrated the capacity of these drugs to cause hyperalgesia. Physicians can easily confuse this condition with increased tolerance. Both seem to reduce the effectiveness of painkillers. The combination of increased tolerance and increased sensitivity to pain in general raises your risk of taking too many opioids. Overconsumption is the fast-track to addiction.
It isn’t clear what percentage of people, who have been long-term opioid painkiller users, develop heightened sensitivity to pain. But a connection has been verified. Unfortunately, for many people, the drugs they counted on to relieve their misery are no longer an effective solution.
While the extent of the risk of hyperalgesia for opioid users is uncertain, the risk of drug dependency associated with excessive consumption is well known:
With the use of opioid medications at an all-time high, the number of people experiencing their destructive effects has skyrocketed. Increased sensitivity to pain as a companion to tolerance is one of those side effects, and it’s one of the most ironic.
Alternatives in pain management do exist for those experiencing mild-to-moderate symptoms. In some instances, these remedies could help those suffering from more intense chronic pain as well. Some of these other options include:
Technology also offers new and exciting prospects for pain management. For example, radiofrequency ablation used radio waves to burn the nerve responsible for pain, providing pain relief for up to a year. Transcutaneous nerve stimulation uses low-voltage electrical signals to provide an almost acupuncture-like experience at home. It tends to provide quick, short-term pain relief.
These healing therapies aren’t cures, but all have value when included as part of a comprehensive pain treatment regimen. For patients with opioid-induced hyperalgesia, a holistic approach to pain management is a non-negotiable.
For some people with chronic pain, opioid medications are important pieces of their pain management, but it’s important to be aware of what the consequences of higher doses can be. If you’re taking opioids for pain, maintain open communication with your doctor to help prevent addiction and other issues from developing.
If you think you’re addicted to painkillers, contact Clarity Way at 888-879-1289 for help.
Posted on April 25th, 2017 in Addiction