Managing Pain Without Opioids

Arlene Mavko

White Pharmaceutical Pills Spilling From Prescription Bottle Over American Flag
White Pharmaceutical Pills Spilling From Prescription Bottle Over American Flag

Historically, the opioid epidemic in the U.S. began in the 1990s with a dramatic increase in prescribing opioids for chronic pain, and it continued to surge with the production of synthetic opioids. National awareness of the rising dependence on opioids and startling mortality rates associated with opioid use have led to a number of measures taken to reduce access to prescription opiates.

Despite some improvement in the number of prescription opiates, opioids are still at the top of the list of the most commonly prescribed class of drugs, and the opioid crisis rages on. Preliminary statistics for 2017, issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, report that there were more than 72,000 opioid-related deaths in the U.S.1 This was an increase from 2016 when approximately 64,000 opioid-related deaths were reported. In October 2017, opioid addiction was declared a public health emergency in the U.S.

The use, and misuse, of opioids is directly related to another epidemic in our country—chronic pain—which affects an estimated 50 million American adults. Nearly 40% of these individuals have what is called high-impact chronic pain, defined as pain that interferes with their daily activities or work. The opioid epidemic is costly, with an estimated at $560 billion spent annually for medical expenses, lost productivity, and disability programs.2

There are battles on many fronts to win the war against opioid misuse, with ongoing expert discussions and debates about pain and the use of opioids to treat pain. Topics at the American Pain Society 2017 Annual Scientific Meeting included:

  • Requiring all physicians to have a basic understanding of pain management
  • Requiring physicians and patients to receive education on the risks and benefits of opioid use
  • Developing strategies to deal with brain adaptations to opioid use, e.g., tolerance, dependency, withdrawal
  • Meeting needs of patients who benefit from opioid use and do not abuse the drug

Perhaps the greatest challenge is for the medical community, researchers, and innovators to develop new options for chronic pain management. The answer may be some combination of feasible opioid-prescribing guidelines, non-opioid medications, and non-pharmaceutical technology to treat pain.

At Sarasota Interventional Radiology, we offer non-opioid methods to treat several types of pain. Our pain management procedures and treatments are noninvasive or minimally invasive, and some are performed with conscious sedation administered by our onsite board-certified anesthesiologists to help our patients relax and to minimize pain and discomfort during the procedure. They include:

  • Celiac Ganglion Block for cancer pain
  • Cooled RF Energy for chronic pain stemming from nerve tissue
  • Epidural Steroid Injection for neck pain, back pain, or sciatica
  • Facet Block for neck and back pain
  • IPL Laser Therapy for pain from inflammation and damaged tissue
  • Ketamine (low-dose) for neuropathic and chronic pain, also for pain from trauma or injury
  • Kyphoplasty for pain from collapsed vertebrae
  • Occipital Nerve Block for headaches
  • Plasma Disc Decompression for pain from herniated or slipped discs
  • Sacroiliac (SI) Joint Injection for pain from SI joint inflammation or dysfunction
  • Sacroplasty for pain from sacral fractures
  • Sphenopalatine Ganglion (SPG) Block for headaches
  • Stellate Ganglion Block for facial and upper body pain
  • Thermal Ablation (radiofrequency ablation, microwave ablation, and cryoablation) for cancer pain
  • Trigger Point injection from muscle spasm and inflammation
  • Uterine Fibroid Embolization for pain from noncancerous fibroid tumors
  • Vertebroplasty for pain from spinal fractures

For more information on these pain-relieving methods, go directly to SIR’s website at For a consultation, please call us at 941-378-3231.

Medical marijuana is now available to Floridians who have a qualifying medical condition, including chronic pain, back pain, migraines, and chronic IBS-related abdominal pain. Interested persons must first apply and be approved for a Medical Marijuana Use Registry Identification Card from the Florida Department of Health. SIR’s sister facility, RevitaLife Vitality Center of Sarasota, can assist them through the process to receive a medical marijuana recommendation. More information is available on RevitaLife’s website at, or call 941-377-4555.




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