For years, we’ve all heard about the alarming rate of opioid abuse in this country, and there have been all kinds of attempts to reduce the rate of abuse and lower patients’ dependence on opioids. Medical professionals are continuing to search for ways of reducing dependence on opioids and to use them less frequently as a tool for pain management. Opioid-sparing in a nutshell refers to any kind of method or approach which involves a reduced usage of opioids in the treatment of chronic pain.
Ever since the 1990s, opioids have been prescribed by doctors as an effective painkiller but it was not anticipated that they would become highly addictive as well. It has been estimated by the National Institute on Drug Abuse that as many as 30 percent of all patients who are prescribed opioids for pain treatment, end up abusing those opioids. That’s what makes it so important that effective methods of opioid-sparing be found so that the number of addictions can be reduced.
How opioid-sparing works
In actual practice, opioid-sparing will combine a lesser amount of an opioid with another medication that contributes toward pain relief, but which is non-addictive. This will allow the patient to feel roughly the same benefit in terms of pain relief while taking fewer opioids. By using several different methods of pain relief, doctors can help patients experience fewer side effects and become less addicted to opioids.
Some of the medications which have already been tested and proven to be effective in an opioid-sparing approach include acetaminophen and NSAIDs, as well as glucocorticoids, anti-convulsants, and medical marijuana. Each of these has been used successfully in combination with lower amounts of opioids, to help patients feel a similar amount of pain relief with reduced usage of opioids.
Benefits of opioid-sparing
At present, opioid-sparing cannot be said to enjoy widespread usage, although once it has been embraced more fully by the medical community, it has the potential to provide some powerful benefits. First among these of course would be a reduced addiction rate, and that alone would make opioid-sparing worthwhile. It also has the promise of reducing side effects from opioids and whatever accompanying medication is used, since both would be used in smaller amounts.
It could also be that opioid-sparing would be a better pain management approach in many cases because it considers several different pathways for pain relief, and that could result in a more comprehensive solution for patients. If opioid-sparing were to become a general practice in the medical community, it would almost certainly reduce the impact of the opioid crisis in this country and around the globe. It would allow doctors to provide pain relief measures without increasing the risk of using opioids, and that could be a huge benefit to the world at large.
Alternative approach to reducing opioid addiction
Orthopedic surgeons of today have another option available to them for reducing addiction to opioids. Laser therapy has been shown to be a very useful pain management tool that does not rely on medication for its effectiveness. Body cells that absorb the photons emitted by the laser will immediately undergo reduced inflammation, greater blood circulation, and less pain in the treated area. The FDA has approved this approach to pain management because it has proven to be extremely effective and avoids the need for any painkillers. The MLS M8 Robotic Laser developed by OrthoLazer is a state-of-the-art machine that can be used to deliver effective pain management without the need for painkillers of any kind.
OrthoLazer Orthopedic Laser Centers offer patients and their doctors an innovative and effective alternative pain management option to treat acute and chronic orthopedic conditions. Founded by Dr. Scott Sigman – the original opioid-sparing surgeon – our centers further his mission of providing his patients non-operative and non-opioid treatment options. If you’d like more information about OrthoLazer, please visit our website at ortholazer.com.