Five Opioid Alternatives for Chronic Back Pain

Opioids take the edge off your back pain – but they can also be addictive, impact your cognitive function, and interfere with sleep cycles.

There’s a direct link between long-term use of prescription narcotics and increased risk of misuse, dependency, and addiction. At least 21 percent of chronic pain patients misuse their prescription opioid medications, and at least 8 percent of patients become truly addicted.

The good news is that there are plenty of opioid alternatives for back pain sufferers. Try these solutions to manage your back pain without the risks associated with opioids.

Alternative Prescriptions Or Over-The-Counter Painkillers

There are some painkillers that will help manage your back pain. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen, for example, reduce inflammation. However, like opioid painkillers, other painkillers are not ideal for a long-term pain conditions. For example, NSAIDs can affect your stomach lining and it’s easy to build up a tolerance, which reduces how effective painkillers can be.

You can use non-opioid painkillers in conjunction with other opioid-alternative treatments, however, to manage your pain as effectively as possible.

Massage Therapies

Massage can be used to reduce back pain. Often, the reduced range of movement and tension you hold in your back due to pain can worsen the pain over time. Massage helps release tight areas in the muscle, which can reduce pain. The stimulation of massage also encourages blood flow to tense muscles to help relax tight areas.

The type of massage that works for you may be different from another patient. Some people find only a light-touch massage is bearable, while others prefer a trigger point massage that targets specific myofascial ‘knots’ in tight muscles. This type of massage can be painful at first but is reported to reduce pain in the longer term.

There are techniques you can try at home for a DIY massage, or you can visit a qualified massage therapist. When choosing your therapist, make sure they are familiar with treating back pain conditions before you get started. This will help them to adapt your massage treatment to aid and relax you.


An ancient Chinese therapy used for thousands of years, acupuncture involves the insertion of a series of very thin needles into affected areas of the body. A skilled acupuncturist will perform this with no pain to the patient.

Studies show that acupuncture can work for chronic back pain patients. It is thought to work by interrupting the pain signals in nerve pathways from the affected area to the brain.

Physical Therapy And Exercise

Chronic back pain comes with a tough cycle: you feel the pain and try not to move in order to avoid it. However, staying immobile can actually worsen your pain in the long term. Immobile muscles and joints will stiffen up over time and it is this which causes a great deal of pain problems.

Many back pain sufferers have weak muscles caused by inactivity; a physical therapist will help to build these muscles back to strength. They can show you gentle exercises to keep you moving, maintain flexibility in your back, and reduce your pain over time. Other exercise, such as a short walk every day, will also improve your mood, blood flow to tight muscles, and boost natural painkillers called endorphins.

Electrical Stimulation

You may have heard of a TENS machine: a battery-operated, portable device that uses electrical pulses to reduce pain. Pads are attached to the skin and a small electric current passes through the area into the deeper muscles below the skin.

Some people find the electrical stimulation helps in one of two ways: a) the small electric pulses, at a low dose, can help the body to release its own painkillers called endorphins, and b) the machines work to disrupt the nerve pain signals going to the brain.

New technology, like BioWave’s, uses both high- and low-range frequencies to further improve the pain-blocking results of electrical stimulation in pain patients. Ready to end your chronic back pain? Talk to us today.