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No Painkillers: Pain Management Techniques Part 1

I’ve received more than a few emails from opiate dependent folks who suffer from chronic pain. The thought of living a life without narcotics is hard for them to swallow, but more often than not, they’ve reached out to me because the pills no longer work.

As tolerance develops, it gets harder and harder to effectively manage the sometimes excrutiating pain that accompanies a lifelong injury. At some point however, the drugs don’t do their job, and another solution must be presented. I decided to put together this series about how to successfully manage pain without vicodins or any other painkiller.

Believe it or not, there are pain management techniques out there that do work, and that don’t require the use of opiates. Whether you’re trying to get off the pills because they’re causing you more harm than good, or you’re looking for an alternative to dealing with your pain, I hope this holistic approach can help you out.

Use Your Brain.
We often underestimate our own brain’s ability to deal with painful stimuli, so we resort to easier methods like vicodin as a subsititute.

Here are a few techniques of the mind that you can use immediately:

First, find yourself a dark and quiet room where you can relax. Recline either in a chair or up against some pillows on your bed, and begin breathing slowly. Breath with your stomach, not your chest. Try not to get distracted. If your mind starts to wander, concentrate on the sound of your breath. Focus on slowing your breathing and your heart rate. Once you feel like you’re calm enough, begin with one of the following:

  1. Alter Your Focus: Move your focus from the pain, to a non-painful part of your body.
  2. Dissociate: Pretend like the part of your body that is in pain, is no longer a part of your body. 🙂
  3. Release Endorphins: Imagine that you have control over the pain numbing endorphins that your body produces, then mentally produce a ton of them.
  4. Positive Imagery: Imagine a “happy” place in your mind’s eye. Anywhere, any situation that brings a smile to your face and makes you feel relaxed.
  5. Counting: Count your breaths, count dots on the ceiling, count sheep, whatever. Just start counting.

Thinking that your mind can make you feel better without any drugs might sound like a load of crap, but trust me on this, it works. I remember about 8 years ago, I severely injured my hand in a work related accident. I had been clean from opiates for a few months, and I really didn’t want to go back to using them again.

When I was sitting in the emergency room, I told the doctor that I wanted to try and endure the pain without any medication. Without even knowing it, I used the above mentioned techniques, and it actually worked. I freaked out! I mean, I was sitting there with a two-inch laceration on the palm of my hand, and broken metacarpal bones, but I was cool as ice. Now that’s powerful!


1 jackie { 02.20.10 at 5:26 pm }

I believe in this method, but dont have the focus, yet.

2 Joe { 02.24.10 at 10:08 am }

Very impressive, I may try this tomorrow. I’m currently healing from multiple fractures in my pelvis and knee surgery. I’m in a lot of pain and take Vicidin’s for relief. I’m not addicted but would much rather not subject my body to drugs.

3 michael { 03.09.10 at 10:04 am }

That’s wonderful advice but how do you use your mind to block out pain when its your brain that hurts? I was electrocuted 4 yrs ago & have suffered from chronic headaches ever since… I have tried meditation but more often than not the pain is so intense I can’t even begin to think of anything else… The everyday headaches this works with to some degree but the full blown migraines I can’t even begin to concentrate 🙁

4 Adam { 03.10.10 at 12:19 am }

Good question Michael. I’ve never faced migraines myself, so the answer may have to be found by you. And, if you do find a solution, please let us all know, as that kind of info is priceless.

5 Marie { 07.13.10 at 12:52 pm }

My husband is currently tapering my medication for my back (I abuse it and end up having to get more on the street, so it is either taper or get out) and last night he had me breathe and his method is to breathe out the “bad” and breathe in the “good”. I was a skeptic, but I tried it anyways and it actually worked, my back had been killing me all evening and I actually had relief and it stayed relieved for the next 2 hours when I went to bed, it worked where the pills, heating pad, massage, etc didn’t!

6 candikadevi { 01.13.11 at 8:51 pm }

Great advice! Thanks for taking the time to share.

7 Chris { 03.19.11 at 9:31 am }

Hey, glad to see so many people getting off these damn pills. There is nothing worse then living out of a bottle. I am 30 hours clean as of 11:30 am, 3-19-11. I used about 7-8 Vicodin ES’s a day (when I had them) for about 4 months. This is not my first time detoxing, but hope it to be the last. There is no way to win, while using. If you abuse you script you will run out, that’s an absolute certainty. I am staying hydgrated and taking Vitamin C supplements. I’m also taking a anti-nausea medicine. It helps a lot with the feeling of wanting to vomit. I do not think I am having the worse withdrawals, but they are definitely tough. It is a lot harder to do everything. Work sucks without a Vic, so does TV, nothing is as satisfying anymore. What gives me hope is the knowing that once upon a time I did not take these pills, and I was fine. None of us were brought into this world, and got handed vicodin. I don’t need it, you don’t need it. Marijuana is also helping. I’ve smoked pot for quite awhile. Stay clean, keep your spirits strong.

8 Jason { 09.29.11 at 7:03 am }

I have been dealing with severe pain for almost half of my life. It has been difficult to find something besides the pain pills to work. I am currently in recovery and have been clean for 7months. Recently though I have gone threw a broken back and prostate surgery and found myself using vicodin again to kill the pain. I’m not abusing them however it seems to be triggering my addiction all over again. So at this point I’m willing to try anything non narcotic that will work. I’m a skeptic so it is hard for me to try new things especially if I’m not sure of the results. I will try this new approach and see what happens…..

9 Curly { 10.05.11 at 5:26 pm }

So what technique can I use? Because what Ive just read is BS of the most moronic kind. Ive CNS damage to the nerves that constrict the blood vessels in my legs. So the one and only none drug remedy to ease pain, and its only by about 30% is to starve myself for about a week to drop my metabolism to where my temp is in the 97’s.

That serves to increase the nerves ability to constrict those vessels as conduction rises with lower temps. Sorry to chop the BS up but there arent any pain ameliorating mental mental bullshits that can keep you from waking to excruciating pain, and then landing in the ER after 3 nights of no sleep due to the pain.

And this isnt any form of withdrawal Im talking about. Im talking about pain thats nearly as bad as any Ive ever had. Hell, I could doze off with the right metacarpal sticking out the back of my hand after a soccer match. (Goalie) But theres no chance on earth of my mind overcoming this pain. I think anyone who falls for these mental tricks must be mental themselves. Seriously…. Do you guys even know what pain is….? Seriously.

10 Becky { 10.10.11 at 8:24 am }

I have been taking morphine for over 2 years for back and neck pain. Surgery was not an option due to other medical issues. Now, my pain management doc left the practice and his associate does not want to deal with me. I am trying to self de-tox because my insurance does not cover another pain management group close to where I live. I am going to try this method because my brain and my body are going crazy. I am asking God to intervene as He is my source of strength…even though the pain is unbelievable. Thank you for your info.

11 Mahara { 10.13.11 at 10:47 am }

so happy I found you. today is day3 and I am finally able to read and type on my little phone. I am in the hot bath and took the tyrosine an hour ago. I was taking 9 vicodin a day and since my script was for 6 a day I ran out. was shocked that dr. offered no help except to take ibuprofen. oh right as if that would help. spent first 2 days curled up in a ball. now I can only start to imagine breathing through this painof 3 ruptured discs. if I can stay clean I will help others someday. prayers for all…

12 Yonni { 10.22.11 at 2:44 am }

I suspect that that this explains why I have such a have such a horrible time at the dentist when they try to numb me! It takes at least 8 or 9 shots minimum to get me num on a good day. Thanks for posting this. It was very helpful. It also explained my my mysterious cold/flu and unexplained brasses. Return of diabetes and HBP.

13 Tara { 01.09.12 at 10:36 am }

Glad to hear others’ stories. I’m on day 4 of Vicodin withdrawal and haven’t slept since 3a saturday. Really surprised at the tenacity of this w/d as I was only on vicodin for a week. Though I took 3-9 a day. This is it for me. Gonna tell my doctors I can’t have any opiates. This just sucks. I have been taking Xanax, b6 and l tyrosine. So far it doesn’t seem to make a difference.

14 Linda { 01.29.12 at 12:39 pm }

Chris, on 3/19/11 wrote about how the vicodin was so bad, so she detoxed herself, which is great. But her last sentence about smoking pot helped her…that’s just as bad AND against the law. She could’ve ommited that.

15 Linda { 01.29.12 at 12:40 pm }

Tara, be careful. I don’t know if your drs told you, but xanax is very addictive too.

16 gail { 02.01.12 at 8:32 am }

I’ll soon be tapering off a 13year course of 40-80mg of oxycontin a day for severe chronic back pain. The oxy has left me unable to have a bowel movement without other medication and now it has compromised my breathing at night and I now have to sleep with a CPAP mask on every night to insure that I keep breathing while I sleep. I’m desperate to get off the oxy but so very afraid of the pain I’m going to have in my lower back once I’m off. I’m open to any suggestions anyone can give me to make my detox a success. Thank you in advance and God bless you.

17 Jenny { 02.12.12 at 2:31 pm }

Gail, i’m a newbie here as well, 13d clean from a 3 yr/300mg a day vicodin addiction. I got a lot of help and support here, but most of the posts, I’ve discovered, are on the “about” page if you want to switch over there. I hope you’re having success!

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