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15 Tips for Easing Opioid Withdrawal Headaches and Muscle Pains

When quitting opioids (and many other drugs) aches and pains during the first week of abstinence can make an already tough period much harder to bear. There’s not much you can do to eliminate achy pains (short of taking more opioids) but there many home-remedy style techniques that can actually help quite a lot.

None of the following are revolutionary, nor will any ease your discomfort completely, but that being said, none will do any harm, most will help to reduce your pain and all will get you doing something proactive – helping you pass the time and getting you feeling a little better.

15 Ways to Ease Opioid Withdrawal Pains

Try any or all of the following.

Remember, when tapering and especially when quitting abruptly, you won’t eliminate discomfort, no matter what you do. Fortunately, physical symptoms only last for a few days and with the right mindset, most people find them quite bearable.1

  1. Take OTC pain relievers, like Tylenol or ibuprofen.
  2. Have a friend give you a massage or self massage.
  3. Take a hot bath or a hot soak in a whirlpool spa. Try adding Epson salts to your hot bath.
  4. Take a hot steam in a sauna. Be careful with this one if you’re losing fluids from diarrhea or vomiting.
  5. Dehydration can cause headache and muscle pain, so drink something hydrating at regular intervals. If you’ve been struggling with diarrhea, vomiting or excessive sweats, try sports drinks that replenish your electrolyte stocks (out of balance electrolytes can cause painful cramping.)
  6. Aromatherapy. For headache, try a very small amount of lavender oil rubbed into your temples.
  7. Try stretching exercises. These can help reduce muscle tension pain.
  8. If aching muscles give you trouble, try a minute or so of vigorous exercise. It’s probably the last thing you want to do, but getting the blood flowing can reduce muscle-tension pain.
  9. Try a cold compress to the head or neck.
  10. Or, try a hot water bottle applied to any achy area.
  11. Try a gentle self-massage into the muscle-area between your thumb and pointer finger. This can feel a bit painful at first, but by applying continuous gentle pressure for a minute or more you can often relieve pain in other areas of the body.
  12. Have sex. If you can manage it, sexual activity can reduce muscle tension, ease restless legs, boost mood and keep your mind off your troubles for a while.
  13. Distract yourself. The more you focus on your aches and pain, the worse they feel. Try zoning out with some cheesy comedy movies for a while, or play video games, or surf the internet, or talk to friends…
  14. Get out of the house and take a walk. Again, it’s often the last thing you want to do, but if you can, a change of scenery can do wonders for your mental outlook. On top of this, light exercise can relieve muscle tension and get your blood flowing. While out in the world you’ll have to pay at least some attention to your surroundings, so this keeps you from hyper-focusing on your internal discomfort.
  15. Sleep, if you can. It can work wonders.

If You Get Clean, Learn to Stay Clean

You can manage your opioid withdrawal symptoms, and with a little preparation, an appropriate environment and a positive attitude, you can successfully make it through the first difficult week.

But though people talk about the getting clean as if it’s the hardest part, remember, anyone can get clean, it’s staying clean that takes real work.

  • People who achieve opioid abstinence are at high risk of relapse.2 Medications like Suboxone or methadone greatly reduce your odds of relapse, but many people, for a variety of reasons, choose to avoid these potent medications.
  • If you go through the difficult process of withdrawal and the breaking of your physical dependency, fight against relapse so you won't have to go through it all over again.
  • To safeguard your abstinence, you should consider some form of professional addiction treatment and also some form of community peer-group support (such as from NA or a similar group).
  • Through addiction treatment programs you learn skills and strategies that help you avoid relapse, such as how to overcome cravings, how to deal with difficult emotions, stress or life-problems without resorting to drugs, how to reduce your exposure to temptation and much more.

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