Avoiding Opioids to Manage Pain Safely

In 2018, more than twice as many Michiganders died from opioid-related drug overdoses (2,036) than in car accidents (962). Opioid addiction can happen to anyone. Too often, it begins as a prescription pain medication taken after surgery. That’s why our practice offers an opioid-free pain management option, and has put into place a pain-medication policy that protects patients who need the strength of an opioid pain killer following oral surgery. Here’s an overview of how we help patients manage pain effectively and safely.

Along with anesthesia, which is given so you don’t feel any pain during surgery, your doctor can administer non-opioid pain medications before, during and after surgery to help control the pain you might have once you’re back home. This helps to reduce or eliminate the need for you to take any opioid pain medication. If this is an appropriate option for you, your doctor will decide the exact medicine you will get, taking into consideration your age, health, the type of surgery you’re having, and any medical problems you may have.

The drug Exparel is one example. This long-acting numbing medicine starts working during your surgery, before you feel pain. In clinical trials, patients who received Exparel took fewer opioids than those who didn’t. Exparel works directly at the surgical site, unlike opioids, which affect the whole body. It provides pain control for the first few days after surgery, when you need it most.

Another pain solution we use is Sockit! gel. This drug-free, all-natural, non-toxic gel provides fast, constant pain relief without numbing. It also protects your wound from microbial contamination. After your doctor applies it once before you leave the office, you’ll apply as often as needed at home for safe, continuous pain relief and wound management.

Once at home, the first line pain reliever for mild to moderate pain for most patients is ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB), which is available over the counter or by prescription. For moderate to severe pain, we recommend adding over-the-counter acetaminophen (Tylenol). The two drugs can be layered so that you don’t feel pain as you near the end of your last dose’s effective period. For more involved procedures, you’ll be advised to take Tylenol together with ibuprofen for the first few days.

In the rare instance that you’re prescribed an opioid pain medication, it should be taken only for severe pain that can’t be managed with other measures. Take only the amount your doctor tells you to and stop taking the medicine as soon as your pain gets better and can be managed with ibuprofen and/or Tylenol.