In 1985, when quarterback Joe Theismann had his fibula and tibia shattered by a tackle, it ended his NFL career in which he'd suffered seven broken noses, a broken collarbone, and broken hands and ribs.
"People would say that it was a tragedy ... but ... it was a blessing," he said. "I'd become somewhat of a self-absorbed individual and didn't really care much about a lot of things except myself. And ever since that day ... I've tried to be a better person."
All that physical pain can make it difficult to be your best self. That's been confirmed by a study in the European Journal of Pain, which demonstrates that people with chronic pain have very low levels of the personality-influencing neurotransmitter glutamate in their frontal cortex, triggering emotional dysregulation and increasing anxiety.
If you're one of the 50 million Americans who live with chronic pain and the emotional changes it triggers, the good news is you don't need opioids for relief. Here are some alternative treatments:
• Non-opioid pain relievers. To handle chronic back pain or osteoarthritis, one study found that non-opioid medications deliver as much relief as opioids. Anti-seizure medications ease fibromyalgia pain; antidepressants can help with migraines; and NSAIDs and topical creams can soothe aching joints, muscles, and some nerve pain.
• Alternatives to medications. Massage, acupuncture, and high-tech radiofrequency ablation and transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) also ease pain effectively.
• Altered pain response. Pain causes tension, and that increases pain. An anti-inflammatory diet, stress-reducing meditation, deep breathing, and visualization, plus plenty of exercise, can quiet the brain's pain response center.