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It’s Not About Pain – It’s About Living

I think we need to change our conversation with our doctors about pain because it’s not really about pain, it’s about getting our lives back. It’s about being productive and healthy and happy and feeling like doing the things we both want and need to do. It’s about the ability to enjoy life again. Pain has the power to take all of that from us.

Fellow contributor Wren wrote about non-opioid pain techniques in her recent article, My RA Toolbox. I know that she’s gone to classes about alternate methods for pain management, so she has a wealth of information on the subject, examples of which she uses in her article.

Pain – a time thief

But I couldn’t help but notice that these alternative pain management methods steal an inordinate amount of time away from patients. While you’re soaking in a hot tub, or meditating, or doing exercises like Tai Chi, or reading, or doing acupuncture, or any one of the myriad other methods that are now being promoted instead of pain medication, you aren’t living your life – you’re dealing with your pain. How do you do these things when you have fulltime commitments like a job or a family? While these methods have been found to be effective, people are still putting their life on hold to deal with the situation.

So our goal, therefore, is to get our life back.

Pain Management: A personal decision

I believe strongly that decisions about pain management are personal to be made in conjunction with your doctor. However, I will comment that pain medications are designed to work quickly so that you can feel better and get back to the important things in your life.

After reading medical news and patients stories, the other thing that I believe is that while doctors are now legally more restrictive in prescribing opioid medications, they are also more cautious in prescribing non-opioid pain treatments that can provide a great deal of benefit to patients. This seems contrary to a study recently reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) demonstrates comparable results when treating chronic back or knee and back osteoarthritis pain with either opioid or non-opioid pain medications.

To quote the study, “The opioid regimen began with immediate-release morphine, hydrocodone/acetaminophen, and oxycodone, but the regimen could advance to sustained-action morphine and oxycodone, and on to transdermal fentanyl. The nonopioid approach began with acetaminophen and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), but it could move on to topical analgesics and finally to drugs requiring prior authorization such as pregabalin and duloxetine.”

The people I know who suffer from chronic pain don’t seem to care whether a treatment is opioid or not – they just want something that works. While all medications have side effects, if patients can get effective pain management without the roadblocks currently imposed by opioids, then that may provide a path to long-needed relief. Further, the FDA has fast-tracked a new non-opioid pain medication, tanezumab, signaling the government’s willingness to provide new options for patients. (The approval of tanezumab is anticipated this year.)

It is up to us, as patients, to initiate these discussions. Stating that you are in pain is one thing. But it’s a different conversation if you say, “I need something that will work quickly so I feel well enough to go to work.” Obviously going to an hour-long Tai Chi class is not going to get you to work on time. And while you might also employ alternative pain management approaches on an ongoing basis, having this type of discussion with your doctor will provide the opportunity to look at more expedient pain relief.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • 2Tired
    2 years ago

    Controversial comment…ah yes….I began taking opioid pain meds a couple of months ago, after using a variety of alternatives…And, they work! My life has dramatically improved pain wise. With all the hoopla about overdoses, I tried to find out: who is overdosing, prescription?, and why?. (There is a government website: It was impossible for me to find an answer, there was so many statistics, no way to find a simple answer. I remember someone saying (I know this is hearsay) that Big Pharma was coming up with a new drug as all the opioid drugs are now generic and so no profit. And lo and behold this article mentions a new drug for pain seeking approval this year. Call me crazy, but follow the money!

  • Beckie Abbott
    2 years ago

    Thanks, Carla. Changing how we express our goal from pain relief to getting to live our life, is an excellent idea. For one thing, it doesn’t look like we are only seeking drugs, which is not our ultimate goal. The way I put it to people is I want to live life while I’m alive. Don’t we all!

  • Carla Kienast author
    2 years ago

    I can’t tell you how much I appreciate all your comments. They just underscore the fact that there are no easy answers — not even opioids — to the kind of pain that RA brings. We need to find alternatives that can help give our lives back. Thank you!

  • Wren moderator
    2 years ago

    Hi, Carla! Very well said, and thank you. Alternative methods for pain relief can be and often are helpful, but for RD joint pain, none of them have any permanent effect and yes, they’re very time consuming. Opioids aren’t a permanent fix, either, but they are (in my experience) more effective and, most of all, much, must faster-working. And since studies show that only about four percent or less of chronic pain patients actually become addicted (that’s just four out of 100!), it seems particularly cruel to deny these benevolent drugs to those who genuinely need them.

  • Carl6g
    2 years ago

    I am a 50 years old female diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis 2 years ago but have had symptoms for at least 20 years. I was taking methotrexate and Cymbalta, as well as infusions of Remicade, nothing worked for me. All my pain was from my waist down and certainly not something I can stand. The only treatment that has been successful has been the taking of RA herbal remedy i purchased from Best Health herbal centre. I now wake up every morning without pain. I have been pain-free period for more than 4 months. I have regular blood tests and do not experience any of the side effects from taking the herbal remedy. Thank God this works for me. I feel great!. Contact Dr linda(Best Health Herbal Centre)

  • CaseyH moderator
    2 years ago

    Hi Carl6g, I’m so glad to read that you’ve found something that provides you with some relief. As always, for all community members, we recommend talking with your doctor or healthcare provider before starting a new treatment or pain relief option, since many treatment options can impact one another, as well as affect the individuals taking them in very different ways. This includes natural treatment options and over-the-counter medications. But we thank you very much for sharing what provides you with relief! I’m so happy to hear this! Yes! -Casey, Team

  • Lawrence 'rick' Phillips moderator
    2 years ago

    I personally only use opioids as a last resort. Most says I get by without them and I like it that way. However, there have been times when I used them all day almost every day. I think that I am like most people in chronic pain we would rather do without, if there were a viable alternative. I do not know if the Lilly / Pfizer collaboration will work or not. But wow I sure hope so.

  • Larry Sawyer
    2 years ago

    Thank you for driving a conversation about pain relief. There prefer to many folks out there who haven idea about what a full bodyRA flair feels like, let alone a joint that is coming apart. Much of what they promote as pain relief is psycho babble at best.

    I have tried all and I mean all the new ideas of pain relief in the 1980’s including bio feed back. and tai chi with little lasting longterm relief and understand the corresponding loss of personal time to dubious pursuit. I have also tried all the drug based relief from walking around with pocket full of NSAIDS to participating in the full panel of opioids as part of a doctor managed pain relief panel. In my life time have had access to everything from Darvon to aspirin in the 37 years of dealing with RA. For the past 20 years I rely on Percocet or its generic equivalent. Like “rick” I use them only when it gets real tough and the minute my system settles down I stop. My dose is 7.5 mg of oxygen and 325 of acetemetaphine. I have been known to take 2 doses when RA lights me up from my toes to my nose. And have been known to use them along as 5 weeks.

    To combat mid range pain I use 2.5 mg of cyclobenzaprine couple with
    2mg of diazepam. As I have said before, I have been known to mix cyclobenzaprine with little Jamison before bedtime.

    Again, thank for stirring the pot on a touchy subject. Our Federal friends have scared the medical community so people who are really in pain are suffering.this is not a good thing.

  • Carla Kienast author
    2 years ago

    @Sierra: I just wanted to thank you for your comment. I sometimes get asked why I write these articles. It’s because once in a while I find they actually help people and comments like yours make it all worthwhile. I hope my article helps the conversation with your doctor.

  • Sierra
    2 years ago

    Carla, You have hit the nail on the head!! I have tried to explain to my rheumy the reason I am so hesitant to try other ‘pain relief methods’. It is not that I’m unwilling it is that I just don’t have the time to set aside hours each day to try to relieve my pain. I plan to print this and hand it to her and perhaps see will begin to understand.

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