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Pain… we are all familiar with it, yet it affects us more often than we think and in multiple ways.
Most people turn to prescription pain medications because they are exhausted from chronic pain and don’t know where else to turn.
But turning to opioids for relief can have traumatic lifelong ramifications that often result in addiction.
For starters, opioids cause changes in your brain that can increase your risk of depression. They can affect your memory, too. And the effects may be long-lasting or even permanent. Opiates depress your central nervous system and slow the electrical activity in your brain, which can result in circadian rhythm disruptions, mood changes and cognitive decline. Opiate use also promotes bowel dysfunction, endocrine (hormone) disruption, sexual dysfunction and reduced fertility, reduced testosterone in males, and bone disorders.
Opioid use has increased over the past 18 years. Many addiction specialists believe pain and hopelessness are driving the opioid crisis in the U.S.
“Fatal overdoses from prescription opioids have quadrupled since 1999 and heroin overdoses have gone up about six-fold since 2001. But other drugs also play a role. Federal health data has found that white women are five times as likely as white men, for example, to be prescribed drugs for anxiety in tandem with painkillers, a potentially deadly combination.
Meanwhile, the suicide rate among middle-aged white women has risen in parallel with prescriptions for often-ineffective psychiatric drugs. Both have roughly doubled since 1999 … According to federal health officials, nearly 1 in 4 white women ages 50 to 64 are being treated with antidepressants. Binge drinking is also on the rise, as women close the gap with heavier-drinking white males.” – Washington Post.
Once their body experiences the relief offered by prescription opioids, the brain and gut (where the receptor sites are located) become addicted. Doctors can get you hooked on pain medications, but what are they able to do to get you off?
One of the most common ways we experience more pain than we would a generation ago is via accumulated unhealthy fats and other poor food choices in our diet.
Functional Medicine offers hope via individualized health-management plans that may serve for the rest of your life. Creating together lives worth living and receiving basic disease prevention knowledge including healthy foods and foundational chronic-illness reversal lifestyle strategies is the goal.
If you are in pain that is bearable, please try these options first, before resorting to prescription painkillers of any kind…
Foods, spices and supplements to ease your pain:
- Eliminate or significantly reduce most grains and all “added” sugars (from soda pop, baked goods (cookies, cakes, pastries, and candies) for a period of 90 days. This will lower your insulin and leptin levels and decrease insulin and leptin resistance. These are conditions that are created by poor diet choices over time and lead to excess visceral fat (central obesity, metabolic syndrome, pre-diabetes and diabetes). This will also keep inflammatory prostaglandins in check. For a real-life testimony, read how EHO contributor Margaret Cantwell relieved her arthritis on the paleo (grain-free) diet.
- Add Omega 3 Fish oil (3-6 grams) to your daily supplements.
- Add quality vitamin D (5000 IU) daily. Take with oils or fats for absorption. Vitamin D is a pro-hormone and is utilized in the functioning of hormones in the body as well as is crucial to a functioning immune system. Also has cardiovascular and weight-loss benefits.
- Astaxanthin is one of the most effective fat-soluble antioxidants known—and is found in plentiful amounts in krill. It has very potent anti-inflammatory properties and in many cases works far more effectively than anti-inflammatory drugs. Higher doses are typically required, and you may need 8 milligrams (mg) or more per day to achieve this benefit. Again, a quality source is crucial.
- Ginger has potent anti-inflammatory activity and offers pain relief and stomach-settling properties. Fresh ginger works well steeped in boiling water as a tea or grated into vegetable juice.
- In a study of osteoarthritis patients, those who added 200 mg of curcumin a day to their treatment plan had reduced pain and increased mobility. A past study also found that a turmeric extract composed of curcuminoids blocked inflammatory pathways, effectively preventing the overproduction of a protein that triggers swelling and pain. A great way to enjoy it is in “golden milk.”
- Also known as boswellin or “Indian frankincense,” this herb contains specific active anti-inflammatory ingredients. This works well with many rheumatoid arthritis patients.
- This enzyme, found in pineapples, is a natural anti-inflammatory. It can be taken in supplement form but comes naturally by eating the bromelain-rich central stem in fresh pineapple.
- Evening Primrose, Black Currant and Borage Oil. These contain the essential fatty acid gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), which is useful for treating arthritic pain. These oils also carry heart-health and endocrine balancing properties.
- Cayenne Cream. Also called capsaicin cream, this spice comes from dried hot peppers. It alleviates pain by depleting the body’s supply of substance P, a chemical component of nerve cells that transmits pain signals to your brain.
- Green tea. It’s not only soothing, but this food also contains the highest amount of detoxifying EGCG’s naturally. These catechins are strongly anti-inflammatory.
Natural treatments to reduce or reverse pain cycles:
Rather than using pain medications (prescription or OTC – “over-the-counter”, or opioids) first consider:
- Medical cannabis. You will need a prescription for this one… Medicinal qualities also include terpenes and flavonoids. Varieties of cannabis that are very low in THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) – the psychoactive component of marijuana that produces “stoned” feeling, and high in medicinal CBD are preferred. Medical marijuana is now legal in 28 states. Learn more about the laws in your state at medicalmarijuana.procon.org. Choose those with high cannabinoid (CBD) quantities – cannabidiol (up to 20%) – which functions very well as a natural analgesic.
- Chiropractic treatments are especially good for neuromusculoskeletal pain caused from vertebral joints freezing up or hypo- or hypermobile. Low back, mid-back, neck pain, headache management, hip, sacroiliac, and other peripheral joints have responded well to a series of chiropractic adjustments. Qualified chiropractic, osteopathic and naturopathic physicians are reliable, as they have received extensive training in the management of musculoskeletal disorders during their course of graduate health care training, which lasts between four to six years. These health experts have comprehensive training in musculoskeletal management.
- K-Laser, Class 4 Laser Therapy. Some Chiropractors also provide Class IV Laser (Hot) Therapy. If you suffer pain from an injury, arthritis, or other inflammation-based pain, I’d strongly encourage you to try out K-laser therapy. It can be an excellent choice for many painful conditions, including acute injuries. By addressing the underlying cause of the pain, you will no longer need to rely on painkillers. K-Laser is a class 4 infrared laser therapy treatment that helps reduce pain, reduce inflammation and enhance tissue healing — both in hard and soft tissues, including muscles, ligaments or even bones. The infrared wavelengths used in the K-Laser allow for targeting specific areas of your body and can penetrate deeply into the body to reach areas such as your spine and hip.
- Research has discovered a clear and effective reduction of pain in the use of acupuncture in the treatment of back, neck and shoulder pain, osteoarthritis, and headaches. Some chiropractors are also trained and licensed to provide acupuncture.
- A systematic review and meta-analysis published in the journal Pain Medicine included 60 high-quality and seven low-quality studies that looked into the use of massage for various types of pain, including muscle and bone pain, headaches, deep internal pain, fibromyalgia and spinal cord pain. The review revealed that massage therapy relieves pain better than getting no treatment at all. When compared to other pain treatments like acupuncture and physical therapy, massage therapy still proved beneficial and had few side effects. In addition to relieving pain, massage therapy also improved anxiety and health-related quality of life.
- Methods such as yoga, acupuncture, exercise, meditation, hot and cold packs and mind-body techniques can also result in astonishing pain relief without any drugs.
- Grounding – also known as walking barefoot on the earth may also provide a certain measure of pain relief by combating inflammation.
As a chiropractor, I’ve seen my fair share of patients dealing with pain. So I know these recommendations can help you experience more of a pain-free life. But my colleague, Dr. Mark Wiley, has lived through pain. His lifelong search to relieve his own pain led him to put into writing what worked for him. I highly recommend his book, Conquering the Pain–An Alternative Doctors Fresh Look at the Newest and Oldest in Alternative Pain Therapies.