Could Painkillers Be Worsening Your Chronic Pain?

Medically Reviewed by NJ Spine & Orthopedic on June 6, 2024
Chronic neck and back pain can be debilitating. Fortunately, there are several ways to help reduce pain. Initially, prescription painkillers often do the trick. For some, they completely eliminate pain. Unfortunately, the relief is often short-lived. Painkillers are only a short-term solution, especially for issues related to the spine.
Continuous use of painkillers to manage back and neck pain can actually make the pain worse, making it crucial to seek other forms of relief, like spinal surgery from a trusted surgical team at NJ Spine & Orthopedic. Below, we cover some of the ways that painkillers may increase chronic pain.

How Could Painkillers Be Affecting Your Pain?

Painkillers provide relief by blocking pain. However, your body often responds in other ways as well. After using painkillers for a short time, your body creates more pain receptors to try to break through the “block.” 

If you stay on painkillers indefinitely, they become less effective and your chronic pain may even increase. Additionally, using opioid pain relievers prevents your body from creating and using endorphins, which are basically natural pain relievers in the body. Ultimately, painkillers make your body more sensitive to pain because your body loses the ability to fight pain on its own.

Painkillers Discourage Activity

Joints are surrounded by a membrane that, during exercise, produces synovial fluid and helps bones, including those in your spinal column, move more smoothly. Physical activity helps the fluid circulate throughout the body and increases blood circulation, exposing the joints to more oxygen and nutrients.

So, taking painkillers should make it easier for individuals to engage in activity and reap these benefits, right? Yet, this is not the case when relief comes from painkillers. Prescription opioids have serious side effects. They vary from person to person and include nausea, dizziness, drowsiness, and slowed breathing. These side effects make it difficult for users to engage in regular activity, even if they have a little relief, ultimately worsening their pain.

Painkillers Can Worsen Sleep Problems

Sleep is key to being healthy. Chronic pain in the spine already makes sleeping more difficult for many people. In fact, research shows that more than 50% of people who struggle with chronic pain also have sleep problems. It’s true that painkillers make people drowsy. However, the type of sleep people on painkillers experience is not the kind that restores the body, increasing sleep issues.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine warns that opioids interfere with sleep through several mechanisms. The most common difficulties are related to sleep stages and breathing.  Painkillers disrupt the sleep cycle by blocking access to REM sleep, the deepest sleep stage. They also prevent people from reaching the stages of non-REM sleep that restore the body.

Contact the Experienced Back Pain Specialists at NJ Spine & Orthopedic Today

Chronic back or neck pain is debilitating and often impacts your overall quality of life. Pain medications offer a short-term solution to offer a little relief, but taking them for too long can make your pain worse. However, you don’t have to live in continuous pain. The experienced back and spine specialists at NJ Spine & Orthopedic offer various treatments to help our patients suffering from back, neck, and spine pain.

Our experienced surgeons have taught their surgical techniques to other surgeons and served as clinical instructors at some of the nation’s largest companies, meaning we are highly skilled in our fields. Our Concierge Team can also help alleviate stress and streamline your appointments. Contact us online or at (866) 553-0612 to learn more about how we can help you with your chronic back pain.

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