Spine Surgery And Opioids
The goal of surgery is to correct a condition in the spine that’s causing chronic pain. Surgery may involve removing a piece of bone or the intervertebral disc. In some cases, the surgeon will have to fuse one or more vertebrae into a stable structure. Surgery does not mean the patient will be immediately pain-free. During recovery, the patient will need some way to manage the pain. Doctors sometimes prescribe powerful drugs called opioids like codeine, morphine, or oxycodone. Opioids are effective but can have addictive qualities. Here are 3 reasons to ask about opioid-free surgery.
1. No luck with conservative treatment
Spine surgery is not the first solution for spinal conditions. Most doctors prefer not to operate on the spine. Before surgery, most patients will have tried a range of non-surgical treatments. Standard treatment procedures include NSAIDs, physical therapy, massage therapy, and hot and cold treatment. In many cases, these techniques can provide excellent relief. A chosen few, however, are not so lucky. If these techniques fail, asking for opioid-free spinal surgery may help.
2. You want to try alternative post-pain management options
Most opioids prescribed after surgery are for pain management. Some patients may want to stay away from opioids and try other means to help with recovery. Using NSAIDs, or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, for instance, can help. Massage and physical therapy have been shown to have a positive impact on chronic pain. Other effective techniques include anti-inflammatory diets, meditation, and yoga.
3. You want to avoid opioids altogether
The opioid crisis is a concerning situation in America. The US Department of Health and Human Services estimates over 10 million people misused opioids in 2019. Because of the effectiveness of prescription opioids, the drugs are often used unnecessarily, which can lead to addiction. This is one of the reasons why over 70,000 Americans die each year. Opioids help with pain management, but some patients may want to avoid the possibility of addiction altogether. The best way to do this is to have opioid-free spine surgery.
Are opioids necessary?
In the past, doctors prescribed opioids more freely before and after surgery. With the ongoing crisis, more doctors are unwilling to prescribe these strong drugs for pain management. Placing a hold on prescriptions may not be a bad thing. A recent study of spinal fusion patients showed that 93% did not need opioids after surgery. These patients did not take opioids before surgery. However, this was dependent on if the patient took opioids before surgery. The results show these powerful drugs aren’t necessary, but patients with opioid dependences will need to be weaned accordingly.
Make the choice that’s best for you.
Deciding on spine surgery is a big step. There are long-term benefits of surgery, but in the short-term, patients must manage pain. Opting for opioid-free recovery can help patients avoid dependency and the dangers that come with excess opioid use. Doctors are more willing to try alternative means of pain management. And with advancements in surgical procedures, drugs are becoming less and less necessary. Have a candid discussion with the spine surgeon about choosing opioid-free surgery.