Americans looking to find alternative pain treatment amidst opioid epidemic

National News

LOS ANGELES, California (ABC NEWS) – One in five adults in the United States live with chronic pain according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and with the rise of the opioid epidemic, many are turning to holistic treatments to manage their often debilitating pain.

Megan Fulmer in Los Angeles is one of the 50 million Americans suffering from chronic pain, which stems from injuries she sustained during her successful career as a dancer.

“I just feel a lot of tension all the time. It feels like my body’s in this locked, anxious position,” Fulmer said.

Fulmer, like most patients with chronic pain, wanted to find the relief that didn’t involve powerful painkillers.

The Mayo Clinic found that 94% of post-surgery patients surveyed said they’d prefer an alternative treatment overtaking opioids.

The top concern with opioids is an addiction, with drug overdoses claiming more than 70,000 lives across the United States in 2017.

“I think if there is anything good about this epidemic, it has brought the attention to the fact that we need other alternatives for pain management,” Dr. Gazelka, associate professor of anesthesiology, Mayo Clinic said.

There is now an ever-growing list of alternative treatments from diets to acupuncture to yoga and meditation.

There are also procedures like the one Fulmer is going through, called a medical branch block.

Fulmer’s doctor says the injections have been used for other ailments including lower back pain, but the injections are now revolutionizing the treatment for chronic headaches with relief that can last for several weeks.

After Fulmer’s injection, her doctor asked her how she felt, if she felt immediate relief, and asked her to move her neck around.

Fulmer said she could feel immediate relief and that she felt better.

“Wow. I can actually move it each way without feeling any sort of pinching,” Fulmer said.

Despite the availability of alternative treatments and the interest expressed by patients, the Mayo Clinic found only a quarter of post-surgery patients surveyed actually talk to their doctors about drug-free pain treatments, a conversation that experts are urging health care providers and patients to have.

This alternative treatment may offer those with chronic pain a chance at what Fulmer has described as life-changing results.

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