Chronic pain creates a vicious cycle, part physical and part psychological, and too often, resulting in a dependence on dangerous opioids. Not only are these medications highly addictive, but a national epidemic of overdose deaths has prompted new limits on how they can be prescribed.
A new book by Dr. Beth Darnall, a pain expert at Stanford University, offers a welcome alternative to using opioid medications to manage pain. For people already hooked on them, it’s a path to freedom. Called The Opioid-Free Pain Relief Kit: 10 Simple Steps to Ease Your Pain, it’s a simple, easy-to-follow guide to calming pain and getting off opioid drugs, using the power of our own brains. As the doctor points out, pain is all in our heads.
Dr. Darnall should know: she’s no stranger to chronic pain. She has treated adults suffering from chronic pain for 15 years, and endured a protracted bout of her own chronic pain. She has concluded that people trying to deal with their chronic pain are made far too dependent on healthcare providers and the medications (such as Vicodin, Oxycontin, Norco, and Percocet) they mete out. Moreover, when patients try to find alternatives, they are often treated with skepticism by healthcare providers. And when they beg for more painkillers, they are treated as if that, and not the pain, is the problem. But as Dr. Darnall states, we can take charge of our own pain through a long-term program of mind-body medicine, and in this book, she shows us how.
The book offers a lot: reassuring, easy-to-follow language, short and practical tips, helpful charts, patient stories, and more. The author suggests readers treat The Opioid-Free Pain Relief Kit as a daily workbook, using its questionnaires and forms as a way to learn more about our own pain by tracking feelings, pain triggers, stress levels, goals, and what techniques work for us. As the title says, this is more than a book: an accompanying CD leads us through a deep relaxation exercise, crucial for calming the nervous system and quieting what Dr. Darnall calls our “harm alarm.”
Instead of feeling fearful and anxious about our pain, Dr. Darnall enables us to calm down and harness the power of the mind. She guides us through techniques like diaphragmatic breathing, and stresses the importance of getting enough sleep and exercise — as well as experiencing pleasure — in order to break the cycle of stress and discomfort. Along with patient success stories, there are morale-boosting “Beth’s tips.” Helpful, gentle, and patient-centered, this book helps us understand that there is no reason to fear pain, and that we can handle it. This is a smart, psychological approach, filled with common sense. If we can calm the mind, we can calm the pain. For anyone trying to get off harmful opioids, this book shows that you really can survive without drugs.
The Opioid-Free Pain Relief Kit is meant to help everyone, and its methods can be learned and practiced without medical supervision. It’s a welcome book at a time when opioid addiction is at an all-time high, and there are not enough mental health professionals who can help manage pain without medication. But it you reach for Dr. Darnall’s book and CD, you’re on the road to feeling better.
Learn more about Dr. Darnall and The Opioid-Free Pain Relief Kit here.