Warm summer temperatures, more hours of daylight and plenty of distractions means one thing: its summertime and you are feeling a little better. Chronic pain usually feels less intense, less debilitating when winter releases its cold grip. Muscle, joints and nerves work best during the warm months of the year. That means you might be able to do more with less pain now. And you might also want to consider making some medication changes now that you are feeling better.
Why change now? Well, for one, now that you are feeling better, your pain control could be just as satisfactory with fewer medicines. Summer is a great time to try cutting back on the doses and/or frequency that you take medications. Tapering programs are best done during the warm weather. You and your prescribing provider might want to try cutting a drug dose back by 5 percent to 10 percent per month. This is also a good time to try taking less of those “as needed for pain” medications. If you can cut back, then you will likely experience less constipation, less drowsiness and less hormonal imbalances. Less is better and the summertime provides an opportunity to try less.
But maybe you need to try something new? Now is a good time to try new approaches to chronic pain. A new drug on the market or an older drug that you have never tried, either one might bring you an opportunity to experience less pain. In particular, adding a tri-cyclic analgesic or anti-convulsant medications used to treat nerve pain might work really well depending on your type of pain. Talk with your prescriber to see if there is anything new (or old) worth trying.
If you have been on the same medications for a very long time, you might want to consider rotating to a different medication. Opioid rotation has many potential benefits like less tolerance, better pain control and less hormonal changes. But opioid rotation also carries some risks of unintentional overdose or worse.1 Care must be undertaken when trying to rotate to a new opioid. Some strategies for safely rotating include a gradual reduction of one medication along with a gradual titration of another.2 Some also advocate for rotating to normal release medications before completely switching to a sustained release medication.3 Although it can be tricky, rotation to alternative medications can allow for a reduction in total dose and improved pain control. If you don’t think your medications are working very well anymore, then it may be time to rotate. Talk with your doctor and make a plan for some changes this summer.
Change is never easy and at times it can be a bit scary, but during the summer even medication changes can make perfect sense. Being stuck in a medication rut is not the place to be as you get older and when the winter cold brings more pain. Change can be for the better if it means you will be using fewer medications or experiencing less pain or both.