When you’re recovering from an injury, taking painkillers seems like a logical way of treating it. You’re in pain so anything that can ease that pain can’t be a bad thing, right? And in many situations, taking painkillers is an important step on the road to recovery. But it’s far from the only step. If you want to successfully manage your pain, maybe even overcome it completely, relying solely on painkillers to see you through it is a recipe for disaster.
At Canyon Physical Therapy, we know that painkillers have their place in the recovery process. But we strongly believe that true healing can only come from putting in the work and doing physical therapy that can restore your body to it’s natural form and strength. There is no shortcut to good health and wellness. Here are a few reasons why you shouldn’t rely on painkillers for pain management.
It Doesn’t Cure, It Conceals
Pain medicine masks your symptoms. It conceals your pain. It does not cure it. Painkillers can’t treat the root cause of your pain. So if you have an injury that requires surgery or extensive physical therapy, that pain won’t be cured by washing it down with pills. In the long run, you have to address the source of your pain if you want to get better.
Think of it like a dirty room. You could clean the room… or you could throw a carpet over it to conceal the dirt. In the short term the room looks clean, but the mess is still there, festering underfoot. Throwing the carpet down is a stall, a delay, a pause button on a necessary action that needs to be completed. This is the relationship that painkillers have to your pain.
You Could Develop A Tolerance
Like most substances and medicines, take enough painkillers and you’ll soon develop a tolerance for them. This is an important part of why they aren’t a good pain management strategy. In order to keep your pain at bay, you’ll have to take larger and larger doses over time to achieve the same effects. And the more painkillers you take, the more you put yourself at risk of falling victim to the most dangerous potential side-effects of painkillers: Addiction.
They Can Be Addictive
It’s important to point out that in most cases painkillers aren’t immediately habit forming. Are they addictive? Yes. Will they always be, in every case? No. It depends on a variety of factors, including the strength and frequency of use for the painkiller, whether you’re mixing it with other addictive substances like recreational drugs and alcohol, and whether or not you’re genetically predisposed to developing an addiction. If your family has a history of addiction, you should notify your doctor before being prescribed any painkillers, especially those that are opoids or narcotic based.
But also keep this in mind: Just because you may not be predisposed to addiction doesn’t mean you’re safe from becoming addicted. Don’t underestimate how powerful painkillers can be, and how easy it can be to go from “I’ll just take a couple of extra pills to get through today” to being a full-blown addict. It’s for this reason that painkillers should never be your only solution to your pain problem: Instead of treating one form of pain, you’re adding a whole spectrum of new ones, both mental and physical, to deal with!
They Could Make Things Worse
Aside from the twin dangers of developing a tolerance or addiction, there is one other serious potential side effect of taking too many painkillers. Research has shown that painkillers may desensitize the way your brain and spinal cord interprets pain signals! Taking too many painkillers could end up causing you more pain and worsening your injury. Not being able to properly detect and interpret pain signals means that things that shouldn’t hurt you badly could end up being debilitatingly painful while things that SHOULD hurt, things that are warning signs that you’re aggravating sensitive parts of your body, go unnoticed.
You could also run the risk of harming your body’s endocrine system and throw your hormones out of whack if you take painkillers for too long. This can affect everything from your libido to your risk of osteoporosis. And even if you don’t get addicted to painkillers, it’s very common to go through symptoms of withdrawal when you stop taking them. So you’ll need to prepare yourself for some serious discomfort when you discontinue use.
Related: How to Treat Chronic Lower Back Pain
For more information on how you can manage your pain and overcome your injuries, give Canyon Physical Therapy a call at 623-374-2910.