Opioid use and abuse have reached epidemic proportions in this country. According to the CDC, 91 Americans die every day from opioid overdose, and over 1,000 people are treated in the emergency room each day for misuse of opioid medications. There is a lot of discussion and finger pointing around how we got here. As a spine surgeon, every single patient who comes to see me has pain. They are also all hopeful their pain can be improved. I am very cautious with the use of opioid medications. In fact, opioids work poorly for nerve-related pain (for example from a disc herniation pushing on a nerve) and have limited use in acute and chronic neck and back pain.
As health care providers, it is important to find strategies that decrease pain without the need for opioids. I just returned from the North American Spine Society’s (NASS) annual meeting, and the room discussing these issues and strategies was standing room only. Missing from that discussion was the role of diet.