The Benefits of Using NSAIDs Instead of Opioids to Manage Chronic Pain

Topics: Opioids

Around 20 years ago, prescribing opioids to treat and manage pain became standard practice. Back then, the risk of addiction was not known and opioids quickly became the drug of choice for treating moderate to severe pain. Unfortunately, this led to the opioid epidemic currently plaguing the country, as more and more individuals found themselves stuck in the cycle of addiction. In fact, according to the CDC, by 2015 the amount of opioids prescribed was enough for every American to be medicated around-the-clock for three weeks.


The Search for Safer Alternatives: Non-Opioid Pain Management

nsaids for chronic pain management

A 2018 report from the CDC states that over 20 percent of the U.S. population suffers from chronic pain. While opioids have long been the treatment of choice for managing this pain, these prescriptions have led to more than 130 overdose deaths in the country every single day. Because there’s no denying that opioids are dangerous, putting individuals at risk of addiction and even accidental death, it’s clear that alternative options should be considered.

Every individual is different; including the way pain is felt, treated and managed. Social, emotional and psychological factors also play a role in one’s perception of chronic pain, and studies show that the more one focuses on the pain, the worse it tends to become. Often, these psychological and physical factors can impact the treatment of pain – and lead to a higher risk of opioid addiction.


What Are NSAIDs?

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, known as NSAIDs, provide relief for mild to moderate pain that is accompanied by inflammation and/or swelling. Commonly used for arthritis and pain from muscle sprains, back pain, neck injuries and more, these medications are available over the counter in both name brand (Advil, Aleve) and generic forms (ibuprofen, naproxen).

NSAIDs work by reducing the pain and inflammation caused by different types of enzymes in the body known as cyclooxygenase (COX), which are released following an injury that results in tissue damage. When taken as directed, NSAIDs are generally safe. However, taking more than the recommendation dosage can result in side effects like nausea or stomach pain. In large doses, side effects of NSAIDs include more serious concerns, such as kidney damage and high blood pressure.


NSAIDs for Chronic Pain Management

The Journals of the American Medical Association (JAMA) conducted a study in 2018 in which 240 participants with chronic back, hip or knee pain were divided into two separate groups, one receiving opioids and the other receiving non-opioids. What was discovered after 12 months is that both groups had no significant differences in improvement in function, and actually, the non-opioid group reported a slightly better improvement rate in the intensity of their pain. It was concluded that due to the known risks associated with opioids, alternative, non-opioid options should be utilized instead for managing chronic pain.

The National Safety Council (NSC) reported similar findings, stating there is no evidence to support that opioids should be used for long-term relief of chronic pain. Several reviews concluded opioids can be beneficial when used for the short-term, such as following an injury or surgery; however, when it comes to managing pain for longer than four months, non-opioid medications, like NSAIDs, can provide the same, if not better, relief.

As the opioid epidemic continues to affect the nation, disrupting both personal and professional lives, the CDC is now urging physicians to prescribe opioids only as a final option. Alternative treatments like physical therapy, yoga, massage, cognitive behavioral therapy and less addictive medications like NSAIDs or acetaminophen can help ease the chronic pain so many individuals suffer on a daily basis.

AmTrust Helps Reduce Opioid Prescriptions Given to Injured Employees

AmTrust partnered with Optum Workers’ Comp and Auto No-Fault, a pharmacy care management company, launching an initiative in 2018 to help reduce the amount of unsafe, non-medically necessary prescriptions given to injured employees. Additionally, AmTrust has seen a drastic reduction in the percentage of opioid-related claims, dropping from nearly 60 percent to just under 25 percent in Q4 of 2018.

AmTrust has the resources and insight to create customized workers’ compensation coverage plans for every customer. For more information about our small business insurance solutions, please contact us today.

This material is for informational purposes only and is not legal or business advice. Neither AmTrust Financial Services, Inc. nor any of its subsidiaries or affiliates represents or warrants that the information contained herein is appropriate or suitable for any specific business or legal purpose. Readers seeking resolution of specific questions should consult their business and/or legal advisors. Coverages may vary by location. Contact your local RSM for more information.
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