Balancing Pain Management in Addiction Recovery

September 21, 2023

Written By: Cindy Sneller-Casey DNP, RN, CNS, NEA-BC, CEN

Addiction often co-exists with other disorders, including mental health disorders, other types of substance use disorder (SUD), such as alcohol use disorder (AUD), or chronic pain. When coping with multiple disorders or symptoms, recovery can feel even more overwhelming. With chronic pain, for example, clients may feel physically and mentally drained simultaneously. Thus, it is crucial to structure a plan that prioritizes recovery while balancing pain management. 

At Buena Vista Recovery, clients are supported throughout their recovery journey, even if addiction is not the only disorder present. Clients are provided with a personalized treatment plan to fully heal from their addiction, mental health symptoms, and/or chronic pain in tandem. Doctors and specialists are here to help clients as they balance pain management, and the client’s care team is here to offer support and methods of balancing pain management while in recovery. Understanding the issues and acting accordingly is essential to foster a healthy, happy life. 

What Is Chronic Pain?

Chronic pain is experienced by roughly 20.4% of adults in the United States, with 7.4% experiencing intense chronic pain. It is defined as pain experienced for several months, typically three to six months or longer than the normal healing period. Chronic pain is experienced mainly by older adults, military veterans, and those living in rural United States areas. It can co-exist with other disorders, including SUD, sleep disorders, anxiety, and depression.

How Can Chronic Pain Co-Exist With Addiction?

Disorders often co-exist, referred to as co-occurring disorders. It is common for those struggling with addiction to have a co-occurring disorder. Commonly, substance abuse co-occurs alongside mental health disorders such as anxiety, depression, or a trauma-related condition. However, chronic pain can also co-exist with addiction.

Those with SUD often develop addiction in an attempt to manage their chronic pain. When chronic pain exists, individuals often turn to alcohol and other drugs to help treat or ease their discomfort and pain. People may perceive relief from various substances, including alcohol, tobacco, opioids, stimulants, marijuana, hallucinogens, or prescription drugs. However, self-medicating with these substances poses no lasting relief from symptoms. Instead, they can inform substance dependence and the development of addiction.

To establish recovery, an individual must work to heal from any co-occurring disorders simultaneously in treatment. For those coping with addiction and chronic pain together, it is crucial to explore methods of pain management that do not involve the use of alcohol or other drugs.

Balancing Pain Management in Recovery

There are several ways to cope with chronic pain while in recovery, including options that promote sobriety. Balancing pain management in recovery focuses on minimizing the potential of abusing or misusing substances. Some of these ways include:

  • Acupuncture
  • Yoga
  • Relaxation techniques
  • Tai chi
  • Massages
  • Hypnosis
  • Mindfulness-based practices
  • Music-based interventions

Moreover, developing a therapeutic lifestyle can promote peace, healing, safety, and ease while prioritizing lasting sobriety from alcohol and other drugs.

Balancing Pain Management and Preventing Relapse at Buena Vista Recovery

While balancing pain management, keeping recovery at the forefront of focus is crucial. At Buena Vista Recovery, we offer numerous treatment and pain management options for clients experiencing addiction and chronic pain simultaneously. Specialists, doctors, and therapists develop relationships with clients to encourage the best care for each client individually. This is done through one-on-one counseling, helping the client and their therapist/doctor unveil the underlying causes of addiction, such as chronic pain, and work through all layers for optimal healing and long-term sobriety.

One of these therapeutic options is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of talk therapy that focuses on clients expressing their thoughts and feelings. CBT works to deconstruct negative, harmful, and destructive patterns of thought to promote healthier actions and behaviors. For those overcoming chronic pain, CBT helps clients learn how to identify their pain, how it affects their mental-emotional health, how it triggers substance abuse, and work to find healthier and more constructive ways of balancing pain management for optimal recovery. 

How Can Doctors and Loved Ones Support Client’s Pain Management?

Recovery is a complex journey that cannot be done alone. It is essential to be surrounded by a solid support system. This includes doctors or therapists and loved ones like family members or friends. When balancing pain management with substance abuse recovery, clients may feel overwhelmed due to the complexity of their addiction.

Leaning on Support While Balancing Pain Management

As mentioned previously, support is crucial when balancing pain management with recovery. Family members and friends provide comfort, stability, and safety that is personal to the client. For family and friends looking to be involved in the process, listening to the client without judgment and providing acceptance and support for the recovery process is essential. Chronic pain can lead to other mental health disorders or emotional distress due to its physical toll on the body. Keeping an open mind and offering love and support throughout recovery is vital for successful, long-term recovery.

Here at Buena Vista Recovery, we understand that addiction is a complex disorder that often co-exists with other disorders. While many co-occurring disorders involve mental health disorders, chronic pain is also something clients experience with addiction. Chronic pain often leads clients to misuse and abuse drugs or substances to help ease the physical toll chronic pain takes on their bodies. However, there are alternative ways to handle chronic pain, many of which rely on relaxation and mindfulness techniques. Doctors, therapists, families, and friends must develop a safe, non-judgmental environment to fully understand the client’s experiences to promote sober healing and long-lasting recovery. Call us at (480) 741-9414 to learn more.