Many people suffer with chronic pain. If you do, you have probably tried over-the-counter treatments, prescription medications, and other treatments, but the pain goes on. You may be asking if there are natural treatments for chronic pain, but lets try to understand a little something about chronic pain before we discuss treatments.
Why is chronic pain different from acute pain? Acute pain will pass when the injury or illness that has caused it is healed. Chronic pain doesn’t. Many things can cause chronic pain— arthritis, nerve damage, back injuries, and fibromyalgia are just a few of them. Pain used to be thought of as just an effect of an underlying illness or condition, but now doctors see that chronic pain may be a condition all of its own and requires its own treatment plan. But for most getting the right treatment isn’t very easy.
Some experts feel that conventional treatments for chronic pain don’t work very well or the side effects are too severe. Opioid-based pain relievers cause constipation, drowsiness, and risks of addiction. The many varieties of NSAID pain relievers pose dangers of bleeding, stomach conditions, and heart problems.
Natural Pain Relievers
This list of supplements may help you find something helpful for your chronic pain without all of the side effects.
- Anti-inflammatory herbs: Ginger, rosemary, cat’s claw, turmeric, willow bark, and devil’s claw. Many of these can be found in your health food store or in your pharmacy. They have been used to replace NSAID medications like aspirin, ibuprofen, Celebrex and naproxen sodium.
- Fish oil: Fish oil has been used to reduce pain and inflammation caused by many chronic conditions. The usual dose is two to four grams of DHA+EPA each day. Though omega-3 fatty acids can be obtained from many sources, research shows fish oil is one of the best. There are also reports that fish oil helps with many other conditions like asthma, depression, arthritis, and heart conditions. Many doctors have recommended it for many years. Fish oil may not provide full relief, but it has fewer side effects than those from NSAID products.
- Vitamin D: This vitamin is found naturally in foods and is made in the body when it has been outside in the sunshine. Studies link low levels of vitamin D to an increase level of chronic pain, which has caused some doctors to start checking the vitamin D levels in patients with chronic pain. If the level is lower than fifty to seventy nanograms per milliliter of blood, they recommend taking a supplement to increase that level. Research has shown great improvements for patients that suffer from fibromyalgia, back pain, and headaches.
- Capsaicin: Made from chili peppers, it has a soothing effect when applied to the skin or rubbed into the joints of patients that suffer from both rheumatoid and osteo arthritis, diabetic neuropathy, psoriasis, and shingles. It may also give natural relief for those with headaches, back pain, and fibromyalgia.
- Glucosamine sulfate: Studies have shown this works well for relieving the pain of osteoarthritis. When combined with chondroitin, it may have an even greater benefit in reducing pain and swelling. Some doctors believe it may even slow the progression of osteoarthritis.
- SAMe: There is evidence that SAMe offers relief of pain for those with osteoarthritis. Research has shown that it works about as well as Celebrex. The drawback is its price: SAMe can cost $80 to $120/month. There are less expensive treatments that work just as well.
- Magnesium: Proof of the effectiveness of magnesium is mixed. Some have shown these supplements can relieve or prevent fibromyalgia and migraine pain. Some experts believe that low levels of magnesium in the blood could be a widespread health concern. Being deficient in magnesium could happen very easily. Sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds are high in this mineral, but they do not show up regularly in most people’s diets. Also drinking alcohol regularly can quickly deplete it from your system. Taking magnesium supplements daily will bring it back up to where it should be.
- Acetyl-L-carnitine: Research has shown that this nutrient can ease nerve pain from diabetes. It has also been shown to regenerate the nerves and restore sensitivity over time.
- Alpha-lipoic acid: Similar to acetyl-L-carnitine, this nutrient seems to be helpful to those with diabetic neuropathy. Promising preliminary evidence has shown that it slows down the progression of nerve injury and may protect them from further damage. Alpha-lipoic acid may increase sensitivity to insulin, which may be an added benefit for diabetics. It may also be helpful for those with nerve damage due to treatment for cancer.
- Bromelain: This enzyme found in pineapple plants seems to reduce pain and inflammation. Studies show it has been helpful reducing pain of osteoarthritis. There have been questions about how it is absorbed in the digestive process, as it should be neutralized by stomach acid. Further research is necessary.
- Riboflavin (vitamin B2): Some promising research shows that this vitamin may help reduce migraine frequency. Taking 400 mg daily is safe to try for an eight-week period to see if it will work for you. There has also been some promise from CoQ10 and standardized extracts of the herb butterbur for migraine pain.
- MSM: This compound occurs naturally in some plants and animals. Preliminary studies have shown some help reducing pain from osteoarthritis, but more studies are necessary to clarify its safety and effectiveness.
- Arnica: This European flower has natural anti-inflammatory properties. Use homeopathic arnica in conjunction with ice, other herbs, and over-the-counter or prescription pain relievers to reduce swelling. Take the oral homeopathic treatment after minor surgery to reduce pain. Rub arnica ointment on strained muscles and bruises for pain reduction.
As always, check with your healthcare professional before using any of these treatments. Here’s to a more pain-free life for us all, naturally!