Pain Management for Recovering Addicts

Pain is a universal feeling. Addicts going through withdrawals and rehabilitation are more limited than most in the remedies they can use. The difficulty of pain management for recovering addicts is one of many reasons why getting sober is an amazing accomplishment.

Recovering addicts just want to get over their addiction and get their life back on track. They might have a supportive family or even have life goals that were derailed. The last thing they need is pain, but injuries and chronic conditions affect them the same as anyone else. Many conventional treatments are off the table as they could jeopardize sobriety.

Thus, pain management for recovering addicts requires healthcare professionals to get creative. Approaches range from medicinal to physical methods depending on whether the type of pain is acute or chronic.

Rehabilitation Treatment Care Center provides resources for anyone trying to recover from their addiction in the Oklahoma City metropolitan area. Call us today at 405-583-4390 for advice on the problems of pain management for recovering addicts.


Pain & addiction go hand-in-hand. However, pain management for recovering addicts is possible without having to relapse.

  • Acute Pain
  • Treating Acute Pain
  • Chronic Pain
  • Treating Chronic Pain
  • Therapeutic Alternatives
  • We’re Here to Help!

Acute Pain

Pain is the body’s indicator for something going wrong within the body. When drugs flow through different sections of the body, it readjusts the body’s normal functionalities temporarily, but can permanently do it depending on how often the drug is taken.

One major type of pain is acute pain. Acute pain, “usually starts suddenly and has a limited duration”. Acute pain is usually when something happens to a certain part of the body such as the back or arm. Injuring your arm after falling from a bike or waking up with a terrible backache because of a lumpy mattress are examples of acute pain.

For addicts, acute pain is common, especially when trying to recover from addiction. Through detoxification, pain is inevitable because of the body’s dependence on whatever drug an addict consumes. The body knows something is off, and in response, it “screams out” for the drug so it can go back to normal.

Sometimes, acute pain doesn’t come from the drug itself but from actions while under the influence. Some drugs destroy coordination of the eyes, hands, and lower body by wither making its normal moves more sluggish or brisk.

These movements can lead to involuntary actions such as falling or running into someone or something. Drugs can also alter the way the mind thinks, lowering critical judgment that could prevent unnecessary things from happening that could cause acute pain such as being more open to trying dangerous stunts that could potentially sprain or break external and internal body parts.

It can also lead to events such as car crashes, burns from pipes or lighters, and even natural effects from drugs like meth that burn, discolor, and break apart body parts such as the skin or teeth.

Treating Acute Pain

If you are feeling acute pain, turning towards a doctor for medical examination, advice, and possible treatment is always a great option to choose. Doctors usually assess a patient’s pain by asking descriptive questions, for example:

  • What makes the pain more or less intense?
  • What does the pain feel like? (i.e., dull, throbbing, sharp, pins-and-needles)
  • Does the pain spread anywhere?
  • How severe is the pain?
  • Is the pain constant or does it come and go?

Furthermore, asking these assessment questions will allow the doctor to have somewhat of an understanding of what’s causing the pain and what results from it. Then, depending on the result, several methods can be used to treat acute pain.

Non-pharmacologic Methods

Non-pharmacologic methods manage both early-phase and late-phase acute pain. Early phase acute pain is caught immediately after the pain has ensued. In this case, if you are feeling any pain, try to catch it early. Detect the location of the pain and use some of these methods to possibly lower the feeling:

  • Application of cold (standard protocols are icing for 20 minutes every two hours or every 10 minutes, alternating with 10 minutes of rest)
  • Compression
  • Elevation
  • Immobilization (although recovery from some injuries, such as ankle sprains, maybe faster with graduated exercises rather than rest alone)

If you cannot catch the pain in time because you don’t have materials around you to administer treatment or you’re simply in an environment that restricts elevation such as a basketball court or your car, take it easy until you get there.

Moreover, keep in mind that the more time it takes to manage your pain, the longer it will take to heal. Some of these non-pharmacologic methods will be necessary for treating late-phase acute pain and/or pain prophylaxis:

  • Physical therapy
  • Yoga
  • Hypnosis/guided imagery
  • Massage

Chronic Pain

Chronic pain can be difficult when conducting pain management for recovering addicts. The University of Iowa Health Care describes chronic pain as “present for most days over the past six months” and “unresponsive to many treatments”.

Chronic pain can either be initiated through an injury or condition or start off as acute pain and grow into chronic pain if untreated.

In addition, when considering drug recovery, chronic pain is usually felt by long time drug users. The body builds a tolerance and dependence on your drug of choice, the separation from the drug will cause the body to go through withdrawals and will likely cause more pain than how it might feel while coming down from a high.

When recovering from drugs, both somatic and visceral pain is felt, somatic pain being the sharp and throbbing feelings within your joints, muscles, tissues, and skin; while visceral pain affects you deeper internally, causing pain such as constipation or stomach infections.

Treating Chronic Pain

Chronic pain is usually treated medicinally due to its severe feeling and duration. Opioids are often prescribed to help with chronic pain if smaller dosage of medication, specifically over-the-counter drugs, aren’t effective.

However, just like acute pain, chronic pain treatment is usually led with an assessment to determine if opioids are the right option for pain management for recovering addicts. The assessment includes:

  • Evaluation of risk factors for opioid-related harms and ways to mitigate patient risk
  • Review of prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP) data
  • Use of urine drug testing
  • Considerations for co-prescribing benzodiazepines
  • Arrangement of treatment for opioid use disorder

The problem with prescribing opioids for chronic pain is the risk of addiction. The opioid epidemic has been rising since the late 90s, finding an even bigger surge in the 2010s. For an addict, if opioids were to be used, it could possibly trigger addictions, causing a relapse.

However, if opioids were used without a relapse happening, the medication is strong enough to combat and ease the pain better than many of the alternatives.

Furthermore, through certain calculations, the CDC says, “the total dose of opioids helps identify patients who may benefit from closer monitoring, reduction or tapering of opioids, prescribing of naloxone, or other measures to reduce risk of overdose.”

Non-opioid medications

Non-opioid medications are used as alternative pain management for recovering addicts that might be recovering from opioid addiction or is at high-risk of developing the addiction for it. According to the Florida Department of Health, some of these medications include:

  • Tylenol
  • Aspirin
  • Ibuprofen
  • Nerve Pain Medications
  • Antidepressants
  • Medicated Creams, Foams, Gels, Lotions, Ointments, Sprays and Patches
  • Muscle Relaxers
  • Interventional Pain Management
  • Non-opioid Anesthesia

Therapeutic Alternatives

If a recovering addict is assessed as a patient that would be at risk of addiction or relapse from opioids, therapeuticmeasures could be taken to ease chronic pain:

Physical Therapy

Reduction in bodily movement that can be related to fear of pain or re-injury is common in chronic pain and often leads to physical deconditioning and, subsequently, increased pain.

Cold/Heat Application

Cold and heat are often used for the management of chronic pain. Cold and heat may decrease sensitivity to pain and provide competing sensory central nervous system input that can reduce pain sensations.

Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS)

TENS units stimulate nerves by introducing a mild electrical current. The electric current is not strong enough to cause muscle contraction but, instead, is thought to interfere with the transmission of pain signals to the brain.


These interventions primarily focus on spinal adjustment or adjustment to other joint areas.


Acupuncture involves the insertion of needles into acupuncture points in the skin in an effort to relieve pain.

Yoga/Tai Chi

Yoga and Tai Chi may provide a source of graded physical exercise combined with relaxation to improve chronic pain.


Biofeedback involves gaining greater awareness of physiological functions or processes such as muscle tone, skin conduction, heart rate, or brainwaves.

Relaxation Training

Relaxation training, which may be done in the context of biofeedback, focuses on identifying tension within the body and applying systematic techniques for decreasing that tension.

Operant Behavioral Therapy

These refer to forms of communication that are observable expressions of pain and suffering such as moaning, clenching, grimacing, sighing, or limping.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT helps individuals resolve their problems concerning maladaptive emotions, behaviors, and cognitions through a goal-oriented, systematic process.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, (ACT) is an acceptance- and mindfulness-based intervention that teaches patients to observe and accept thoughts and feelings without judgment and without trying to change them.


Hypnotherapy utilizes suggestive statements made by a therapist to alter the patient’s attention and focus away from pain.


Mindfulness meditation is another approach combining elements of relaxation and hypnotherapy, which seeks to increase focused attention and facilitate relaxation.

We’re Here to Help

It’s evident there are alternatives for pain management for recovering addicts besides using other drugs. Remember, pain comes with recovery. Don’t give up on your recovery because of it.

In conclusion, if you’re having additional trouble trying to treat your pain and addiction or know someone else going through those troubles, contact Rehabilitation Treatment Care Center. Our resources will give you or your loved one the guidance needed to get through pain management and addiction treatment so you can achieve the life you want without addiction.

Call Rehabilitation Treatment Care Center now at 405-583-4390 for a free consultation!


GIVE US A CALL AT 405-583-4390!

We here to help with your guidance and questions.

If you have any questions about drug and alcohol treatment, give us a call. Our trained professionals are standing by to answer your questions and help you get the help you need.


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