Opioids: American’s Addiction to Pain Relief

Opioids Information Graphic, link to accessible version follows

The facts are startling. In 2016 and 2017, 11.4 million Americans reported misusing their prescription opioid medications and it is estimated that over 130 people die every day due to opioid-related drug overdoses.  The problem extends from men and women who are homeless to those who make over six figures a year.

One way to help prevent opioid use in such prevalent numbers, besides working with prescribers to reduce prescriptions, is to help people manage their pain better.  “Pain is currently recognized as the most compelling reason for an individual to seek medical attention from a general practitioner, and accounts for approximately 80% of physician visits [2].” With this in mind, it seems some education for doctors and patients alike on alternative methods of pain relief might be helpful.  By no means am I suggesting that medications aren’t warranted; I am simply stating there might be other tools to use before using or in addition to taking prescription drugs.  One modality which might be able help is massage.

Massage is an ancient form of healthcare which has been used for thousands of years to help with musculoskeletal pain.  Modern research has shown it does indeed have to potential to help people manage their pain when compared to no treatment or sham treatments.  It was also shown to help improve quality of life and sense of overall well-being.  Another study looking at the comparison of deep tissue massage with or without NSAID use found data which suggests deep tissue massage alone seems to be as effective as a deep tissue massage with medication for low back pain.  This information leads to the conclusion that massage could help with musculoskeletal pain and is worth a try.


[1] U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. https://www.hhs.gov/opioids/about-the-epidemic/index.html. Accessed 09/25/2018

[2] Crawford, C et al. (2016). The Impact of Massage Therapy on Function in Pain Populations – A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials: PArt I, Patients Experiencing Pain in the General Population. Pain Medicine: The official Journal of the American Academy of Pain Medicine, 17(7), 1353-1375. http://doi.org/10.1093/pm/pnw099

[3] Majchrzycki, M., Kocur, P., & Kotwicki, T. (2014). Deep Tissue Massage and Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs for Low Back Pain: A Prospective Randomized Trial. The Scientific World Journal, 2014, 287597. http://doi.org/10.1155/2014/287597



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