When you hear the stories of people who have struggled with addiction, you often hear that their first use of an opioid pain medication was as a result of a prescription given to them in the hospital after an injury such as a bone fracture, sprained ankle, or dislocated shoulder. One recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association looked at these prescriptions for acute pain and determined that a simple combination of the over-the-counter medicines was as effective as opioid pain medications in providing pain relief. In fact, there was no statistical difference between the level of relief provided by opioids or the over-the-counter combination.
The 416 patients with acute pain who participated in the study received either a combination of ibuprofen and acetaminophen (Advil and Tylenol), Percocet, Vicodin, or Tylenol No. 3, which contains codeine. Patients in all groups reported similar pain reduction after 2 hours. This new information could prove valuable in emergency departments as practitioners look for alternatives to prescribing opioid medications and to people looking for alternatives to opioid pain treatment.
In addition to non-opioid medications, there are other alternatives that can be used to manage acute and chronic pain. Over the next year, ASAP will highlight some of these including acupuncture therapy, chiropractic care, yoga, and massage therapy. As always, discuss your symptoms with your prescriber before making any medication or lifestyle changes, but know there are alternatives available.