The epic rise of opioid deaths, devastation to families and loved ones and over prescribing of all pain relievers has left us as a nation in limbo with how to deal with pain. This is especially true for those suffering with chronic pain due to arthritis, degeneration, diabetes etc. The following will detail the effects of medications as well as natural solutions which when taken regularly can be highly effective with minimal if any side effects.
Most people are aware of the dangers that opioids present but not as widely known or discussed is the danger that over the counter ibuprofen, Tylenol, aspirin and Alleve present. In the short term most people are able to take a few days worth of the above pain relievers with little to no negative effects. It is the long-term use/abuse that tends to create problems for the liver, kidneys, heart and digestive organs.
Let’s take a moment and clarify what each of these different medications do and how they work in your body.
Ibuprofen (aka Motrin, Advil): a non-steroidal anti-inflammation (NSAID) sold over the counter and widely utilized for pain, fever and inflammation
Side effects: Upset stomach, diarrhea, dizziness, drowsiness and stomach bleeding.
Tylenol (aka acetaminophen): serves primarily as a pain reliever as well as fever reduction
Side effects: contains a significant warning for liver damage when consumed by people who drink 3 or more alcoholic drinks in a day, especially if consuming alcohol while taking the product.
Aspirin (aka Bayer): also a NSAID used to treat pain, fever and inflammation by reducing the enzymes that make prostaglandins. Prostaglandins are the chemicals that are released which cause the inflammation and pain. Additionally aspirin inhibits the function of platelets and produces an antithrombotic effect. This is the reason people will take a baby aspirin to reduce the chance of heart attack or stroke.
Side effects: gastritis, ringing in the ears, rash, kidney impairment, vertigo, dizziness, nausea, liver toxicity, gastrointestinal bleeding, ulcer and increased blood uric levels.
Unfortunately, most over the counter medications come with some risk and negative side effects. Fortunately there are natural products available that have minimal risk and can be quite effective. Consider the following:
Turmeric/Curcumin: Turmeric is the spice that gives Indian food its yellow color. Turmeric contains chemical compounds called curcuminoids, which have powerful anti-inflammatory effects as well as strong antioxidant properties. In order to achieve these benefits a supplement containing the correct dosage is necessary to achieve therapeutics benefits. The amount we use in cooking is insufficient to create a significant effect. Curcumin is not easily absorbed into the blood stream however taking black pepper with it increases the absorption.
Black pepper contains piperine, which is a natural substance that increases the absorption of the curcumin by 2000% percent.
Side effects: none despite numerous clinical trials
Boswellia: Boswellia is better known by its more common name, which is frankincense. Frankincense is an herbal extract derived from the boswellia serrate tree and is very effective in reducing inflammatory responses. Boswellia may interact with any other anti-inflammatory you may be taking so talk to you doctor before beginning. I would advise against taking boswellia if you are pregnant because it has been know to increase blood flow to the uterus and pelvis
Arnica: arnica is an herb grown mainly in Siberia and central Europe and is used to reduce inflammation and help with pain. It is available in a cream, gel and orally. Avoid if you are pregnant, have high blood pressure, IBS, ulcers or Chron’s disease.
Willow Bark: Often referred to as nature’s aspirin. Willow bark is bark that comes from several different varieties of the willow tree. It works primarily like aspirin in that it is a pain reliever and has been used for a very long time dating back to the time of Hippocrates. It does have some side effects that could pose a problem if you have sensitivity to aspirin. Post surgically it may slow blood clotting and as always avoid if you are pregnant.
Ice: ice is used as an anti-inflammatory and helps to reduce swelling especially after an injury. It causes the blood and lymphatic vessels to constrict. When your pain is due to an inflammatory response ice is very helpful in reducing your pain.
Acupuncture: Acupuncture has been increasingly used as an effective natural pain reliever with very low risk of any side effects.
No matter what method you employ to help with your pain I encourage you to talk to your doctor to assess your specific issues and possible risks. Whenever possible chose the path of least risk to achieve sufficient pain management. For your convenience we have a number of these reliable and vetted products in stock. If you are someone who suffers from chronic pain please be safe and mindful in whatever approach you take to manage your pain.