Cold Therapy vs. Opioids

Healthcare Trends

By Nathan Gray, Principal and Co-Founder of Graymont Medical

A look into the opioid epidemic in America, and how cold therapy is trying to alleviate the long-term devastation.

As anyone in the medical industry knows, we’re in the midst of an opioid epidemic that has no indication of slowing down anytime soon. A staggering 130 Americans die each day from an opioid overdose, not to mention that 68 percent of all drug overdoses in 2017 involved an opioid.

Oftentimes, those who become addicted to prescription opioids are people with no history of drug addiction, but were prescribed opioid painkillers following surgery and developed an addiction they could never quit.

Are opioids really our best line of defense when treating post-surgical pain? The answer is plain and simple, no.

How Did We Get Here?

Following an intense surgery with unbearable pain, opioids are often the first line of defense. It goes without saying that opioids should be prescribed under certain circumstances.

In 2000, The Joint Commission (JCAHO) published new pain management standards in which doctors were instructed to help patients better manage their pain. However, this had the unintended consequence of leading physicians to rely too heavily on prescribing opioids for pain management.

Many different factors have contributed to our country’s opioid epidemic, including how patients manage pain after an injury.

A Risky Path

Unfortunately, nobody is immune to developing an opioid addiction. It could happen to you or anybody you know. Even if you’ve never been addicted to hard drugs or alcohol before, you could develop an addiction to opioids you were prescribed following routine surgery.

Although it can be tempting to rely on opioids for pain management following surgery, they can lead to unwanted short- and long-term side effects and complications, in addition to the risk of developing an addiction. Some of the most common side effects are constipation, depression, nausea, vomiting, physical dependence, sedation and a weakened immune system.

The Cold Therapy Cure

There are some surgical situations that merit the prescription of opioids. But there are also situations in which another form of pain management should be considered: cold therapy.

According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, cold therapy can help reduce inflammation which will help with pain management, as well as decrease a patient’s sensitivity to pain by reducing nerve activity.

When it’s difficult to use cold compression on an area following surgery, a patient might give up and resort to painkillers instead. One cutting-edge cold-compression therapy product, the Lake Effect Universal Wrap and SnoPack, fixes this common problem. The wrap uses cold-compression and direct-stick technology to help people continuously use cold therapy on hard-to-reach areas following surgery. The wrap can be worn for four hours and comes treated with patented antimicrobial technology to reduce the risk of post-operative infection.

Cryotherapy products reduce the risk of a patient developing an opioid addiction while also lowering pain, reducing muscle spasms and decreasing inflammation. When you look at the short- and long-term effects of cold therapy versus opioid usage, I’d call that a win.

Nathan Gray, Principal and Co-Founder of Graymont Medical, sought to redefine the Durable Medical Equipment industry by building an organization that prioritizes patients and employees. In 2012, Graymont Medical launched to provide first-class service to patients all over the country. Under the combined direction of the leadership team, Graymont Medical is now one of the leading distributors of products that enhance surgical outcomes for thousands of patients each year.

Whether he’s solving complex medical problems or growing the business, Gray puts people at the center of every endeavor. With more than 15 years of experience in the medical industry, he’s built a reputation as an entrepreneur who will always take the time to challenge obstacles by providing innovative solutions. Outside of work, he enjoys spending time with his wife Sara and his children Sam, Hannah and Emma, and is a recent yoga enthusiast. He attended Michigan State University, where he founded the Michigan State Medical Technology Club.