How To Avoid Opioids For Pain

AcuteDid you know that a staggering estimated 100 million people are now suffering from chronic pain?  Chronic pain includes a wide range of injuries and diseases such as those suffering from broken bones, joint aches and pains, dental problems, surgical side effects, as well as those working in physically demanding jobs that wear the body down, such as Rheumatoid Arthritis, Crohn’s disease and cancer. The bottom line is that people are suffering and are seeking solutions to ease their pain. Pain has become such a debilitating condition that it is costing the American economy $635 billion per year in medical costs and lost productivity.

Americans have been conditioned to seek out the help of drugs when physical pain or discomfort arises. Once thought to be a “miracle cure”, opioids, or narcotics, are medications prescribed by doctors to treat persistent or severe pain. Opioids, or narcotics are sold under names such OxyContin®, Percocet®,  Vicodin®, Percodan®, Tylox® and Demerol®.  (Did you know that Heroin is an Opioid)?

The opioid crisis has reached epidemic proportions in the last 15 years. Although opioids may create some relief, more than 25% of those that take an opioid become addicted.   The risk of addiction is especially high when opioids are used to manage chronic pain over a long period of time.  Statistics from the Center for Disease Control show that over 42,000 people died from opioids in 2016, which is a 28% increase from 2015 (Ingraham, 2017).  The word epidemic is not being used as a “breaking news” tease or an exaggeration or to sensationalize, but the cold, hard truth.

Opioids block pain messages sent from the body to the brain.  They mimic the chemical structure of a natural neurotransmitter, but they don’t activate nerve cells in the same way as a natural neurotransmitter.  This leads to confusion and abnormal messages being transmitted through the nervous system.  Opioids are dangerous and addicting because, while blocking the pain messages, they also stimulate the same reward/pleasure centers of the brain as dopamine.  Dopamine is a neurotransmitter present in regions of the brain that regulate movement, cognition, emotion, motivation, and feelings of pleasure. We are programmed to repeat life-sustaining activities by associating those activities with pleasure or reward.  The overstimulation of this system produces the euphoric effects sought by people who misuse drugs.

Opioids don’t fix the source or cause of the pain.  These drugs are simply pulling the battery out of the smoke alarm and letting the fire continue to burn.  Opioids have proved to create more problems than they do benefits for their patients.  In a lot of cases, the root cause of the pain can’t be fixed, but there are natural alternatives to reduce and even eliminate pain.

Whole body cryotherapy has been proven as an effective modality in chronic pain management.

A recent article analyzed the results seen from whole body cryotherapy in six studies that all showed decreased pain in patients, as well as a few more studies claiming increased mobility and quality of life (Bouzigon, Grappe, Ravier, & Dugue, 2016).

In one study, when surveyed before and after whole-body cryotherapy, patients ranked their pain on a scale from 1-10. Before treatment, the average reported was a 6.9, where as after 20 whole-body treatments, the average between the patients was recorded at a mere 2. Not only was the pain reduced after these treatments, but two weeks after treatment ended, patients pain level was still only at a 2.3 (Miller, 2006).

Banfi, Giuseppe, et al. conducted a study with 10 top-level Italian Rugby players experiencing cryotherapy treatments every other day for one week.  In addition to a significant decrease in lactic acid and creatine kinase, they also documented a decrease in pro-inflammatory cytokine/chemokine and an increase in anti-inflammatory cytokine. This means that inflammation and pain was decreased with one week of treatment.

When the body is subjected to the cold temperatures of the cryosauna, the body’s cold sensors are stimulated, triggering the body’s “fight or flight” response.  The fight or flight response causes the body to powerfully vasoconstrict, sending blood to the center of the body.  This gives the body the opportunity to enrich the blood with oxygen and necessary enzymes and nutrients.  In turn, this allows the internal organs to be bathed in this newly enriched blood efficiently during the WBC treatment, essentially, “rebooting,” the internal organs.  The new blood also helps to expel toxins from subcutaneous skin layers, encourages a healthy cell renewal process, and replaces and eliminates dead cells from peripheral tissues.  This is the process of whole body rejuvenation from the cellular level; From the inside, out!

WBC also produces norepinephrine.  Norepinephrine is a hormone released during the body’s “fight or flight,” response.  Norepinephrine is responsible for many important biochemical processes including the anti-inflammatory response.  When the body is exposed to extreme cold, norepinephrine within the body increases by as much as five-fold, and is used as an anti-inflammatory hormone.  Norepinephrine works within the body, inhibiting the inflammatory pathway by decreasing the tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha), which is a chemical within the body that increases inflammation.  Norepinephrine also decreases the presence of macrophage inflammatory protein -1α which may play a role in rheumatoid arthritis as well as other autoimmune diseases. When inflammation is reduced, pain is reduced.

Cryotherapy also promotes the release of endorphins, which are neurotransmitters released by the brain, creating improved mood and even a perceived “high”. Research shows that improvements in pain have been contributed to this increased endorphin release, creating a reduced perception of pain in our brains (Miller, 2006). Yes, cryotherapy can be “addicting” because of how great people feel, but not in the devastating and potentially fatal way opioids have become in the last decade.

If whole body cryotherapy is implemented correctly there will be a significant reduction in opioid prescriptions per person, reducing potential overdoses, preventing patient addiction and decreasing the costs of treatment to the entire healthcare sector.

Questions about cryotherapy or what is the right protocol for your health goals? Please feel free to email me at drgray@restorecryosauna.com, or call 610-341-9300.

Banfi, Giuseppe, et al. “Effects of Whole-Body cryotherapy on Serum Mediators of Inflammation and Serum Muscle Enzymes in Athletes.” Journal of Thermal Biology, vol. 34, no. 2, 2009, pp. 55–59., doi:10.1016/j.jtherbio.2008.10.003.
Bouzigon, R., Grappe, F., Ravier, G., & Dugue, B. (2016). Whole- and partial-body cryostimulation/cryotherapy: Current technologies and practical applications. Journal of Thermal Biology, 61, 67-81. doi:10.1016/j.jtherbio.2016.08.009
Franklin, G. M., Mai, J., Turner, J., Sullivan, M., Wickizer, T., & Fulton-Kehoe, D. (2011). Bending the prescription opioid dosing and mortality curves: Impact of the Washington State opioid dosing guideline. American Journal of Industrial Medicine, 55(4), 325-331. doi:10.1002/ajim.21998
Ingraham, C. (2017, December 21).

Kolodny, A., Courtwright, D. T., Hwang, C. S., Kreiner, P., Eadie, J. L., Clark, T. W., & Alexander, G. C. (2015). The prescription opioid and heroin crisis: A public health approach to an epidemic of addiction. Annual Review of Public Health, 36(1), 559-574. doi:10.1146/annurev-publhealth-031914-122957
Miller, Elżbieta “Comparison of effectiveness local and whole body cryotherapy in chronic pain,” Polish Journal of Philosophy, vol. 1, no. 4, pp. 6:27–6:31, 2006.
National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Overdose Death Rates.” National Institute of Health, 15 Sept. 2017, www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/trends-statistics/overdose-death-rates.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality (2013). The DAWN Report: Highlights of the 2011 Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) findings on drug-related emergency department visits. Rockville, MD.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2017/12 /21/cdc-releases-grim-new-opioid-overdose-figures-were-talking-about-more-than-an-exponential-increase/

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