Traditional pain treatments often come with harmful side effects and they fail to get at the root of the problem. Instead, try these natural solutions for pain management.
It’s safe to say everyone has experienced pain at some point in their life. The human body has millions of pain nerve endings, located in every single organ, except the brain. The brain is the organ that processes pain signals and sends signals back to the point of origin so that we feel pain in those regions.
When it comes to treating pain, it’s easy to fall back on traditional pain medications. However, these often fail to get at the root of the problem and are often addictive and have many side effects. Here’s how to get at the root of fighting pain by managing inflammation – the natural way.
Why We Hurt
Pain is your body’s way of telling you that something is wrong and referring you to the location that requires attention. Pain is often paired with inflammation, which attracts immune cells to the region that requires attentions so these immune cells can help fix the problem.
While the team of pain and inflammation work very well for short-term acute pain, if the they become chronic and prolonged they can be a source of huge discomfort. Also, chronic inflammation can cause progressive damage and can lead to chronic long-term illnesses such as arthritis (joint inflammation), bronchitis (airway inflammation) and cirrhosis (liver inflammation).
Pain Meds Demystified
The problem with most established clinical pain management is that it relies heavily on medications that block the perception of pain, rather than addressing the potentially damaging inflammation. Another downside to traditional pain medications is that many have serious side effects and addictive properties.
The most common of all pain meds are the NSAIDs, such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen, aka Tylenol and Advil. Used excessively, these medications cause ulcers, kidney damage as well as liver damage. They work by inhibiting the production of prostaglandins i.e. pro-inflammatory compounds responsible for inflammation. In acute type situations such as a minor cut they are beneficial as they bring immune cells to the site of injury to accelerate healing. They are also beneficial in the stomach where they promote the production of protective mucous and in the kidneys where they regulate proper blood flow through these organs. On the other hand they are not beneficial in chronic long term inflammation (such as in rheumatoid arthritis for example) where they promote damage done by the immune cells. With respect to the liver,
NSAIDs have a toxic effect and tax the liver by putting more effort into neutralizing these compounds. Therefore inhibiting prostaglandin production by NSAIDs is beneficial for long term inflammatory conditions but it is not healthy for the stomach, kidneys and the liver. Excessive use of these medicines would be considered daily usage for a period of more than 6 months, although this time frame is substantially reduced in someone with already existing stomach, kidney or liver problems.
Opioids, on the other hand, such as morphine, and oxycodone are extremely addictive and can cause chronic constipation. These medications work by binding directly to opioid receptors in our brain. Normally compounds called Endorphins released by the brain bind to these receptors when we are in pain in order to mitigate the sensation of pain. It is only acceptable to use these medicines in short lasting extremely painful situations (such as major accidents), in prolonged and painful healing scenarios or in end of life compassionate type situations. It is very risky to use them in any other type of situation due to their very high addictive potential and severe withdrawal symptoms once discontinued. They also pose the risk of overdose and death due to cessation of breathing at high doses.
More extreme pain medications are sometimes requires for surgeries, however extreme caution should be used. The most common are local anesthetics (this is their general name) such as lidocaine. You know them from the dentist’s office for freezing. They are all derived from cocaine and can lead to heart arrhythmias or heart rhythm irregularities if used improperly. Improper use would be in someone with an already existing heart condition that can predispose to arrhythmias or an already existing heart arrhythmia.
Barbiturates and benzodiazepines (e.g. Valium) are extremely addictive. Barbiturates can easily cause loss of consciousness and even the cessation of breathing. Barbiturates are now seldom used because of the extreme risk involved. Benzodiazepines are still commonly used for anxiety conditions and for pain. However one has to be aware of their very strong addictive potential and severe withdrawal symptoms. These can even lead to life threatening delirium once long term use (daily use for more than 3 months) is discontinued.
Next week I will talk about how to go NATURAL without the risks associated with the above listed meds. (Go to Part 2)