It’s important to figure out just how bad your shoulder pain must get before it’s time to take narcotic drugs.

“For most conditions involving the shoulder I recommended a course of NSAIDs first before any consideration of stronger pain medication,” says Jonathan Oheb, MD, North Valley Orthopedic Institute, Chief of Orthopedic Hand and Upper Extremity Surgery.

“Although, I do not generally prescribe narcotics for shoulder pain, I do prescribe them for fractures.  There is not a specific time period for shoulder pain that determines when to consider narcotic pain medication.”

My mother several years ago experienced a lot of shoulder pain that we suspected was originating from carpal tunnel syndrome.

Preceding this she had had knee pain from a torn meniscus and had arthroscopic surgery.

This all meant that my mother was taking daily doses of powerful prescription narcotic pain pills.

It wasn’t long before the narcotics began creating side effects. I warned my mother not to take any more pain pills.

These drugs are very potent and can cause a huge host of alarming side effects, including confusion, constipation, vomiting and stomach upset. That’s just the beginning. Narcotics can also cause depression and anxiety.

I told my mother DO NOT TAKE ANY MORE PAIN PILLS. There has got to be a way to get through pain without narcotics or other potent numbing drugs.

After all, people got by before narcotic prescription drugs were even invented. My mother agreed to this plan, which went into effect two days after her carpal tunnel syndrome surgery.

Carpal tunnel syndrome surgery can leave residual pain, and my mother thought this was why her shoulder was hurting.

At one point she asked me how intense the discomfort would have to be before she could take a pill.

This was after she was seated for 30 minutes with an ice pack on her shoulder.

I explained that if she could sit through the hurt for the past 30 minutes, she could sit through it for a few more minutes, to take it a few minutes at a time, to grit her teeth and just let it run its course.

There was no way I was going to give her drugs that resulted in nasty side effects.

To help my mother cope with the hurting shoulder, I reminded her that she was fed (having had breakfast not too long before), and safe, with no danger around.

I pointed out that she was warm (I had just put a blanket on her) and not doing anything that was causing damage to her shoulder.

“The pain will not injure you,” I said.

The development of side effects coincided with when she began taking Norco, a potent narcotic, of which depression is a possible side effect.

The various narcotics my mother had taken never seemed to stamp out the discomfort anyways.

My mother sat through the discomfort until I got her up to do some shoulder exercises to relieve the pain naturally. She got through it, without taking a narcotic pill. Yes, it can be done.

Consider that pain from post-surgical carpal tunnel syndrome can be managed naturally.

Update: The shoulder pain persisted and seemed to get worse. An MRI revealed tears in the rotator cuff region. 

In addition to hand, elbow and shoulder care, Dr. Oheb provides comprehensive surgical and nonsurgical treatment for all orthopedic conditions of the hip, knee and ankle, including broken bones and injuries.
Lorra Garrick is a former personal trainer certified through the American Council on Exercise. At Bally Total Fitness she trained women and men of all ages for fat loss, muscle building, fitness and improved health. 


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