Any kind of pain or aches can certainly make anyone’s life uncomfortable. Whether they are the result of an injury, repetitive use of muscles and joints associated with sports or simply aging, pain can make you feel older than your years. It can also prevent you from engaging in activities you enjoy.
The patients who come to me with aches and pains are all too familiar with prescription painkillers and over-the-counter drugs, but they often struggle with side effects. These medications are not the only option for managing your pain. Let’s explore some natural options to stave off soreness, increase mobility and soothe aches.
Why Go Natural?
As I mentioned above, we all know that drugs such as acetaminophen, aspirin and ibuprofen are accessible, inexpensive and generally effective at dulling pain. Many of my patients depend on these synthetic painkillers because they don’t know where else to turn. After seeing the unpleasant side effects of some of these medicines, I have researched natural alternatives that may be just as effective as harsh drugs.
There is nothing wrong with using over-the-counter painkillers occasionally, but for those with chronic pain, complications often arise. Aspirin, for instance, can cause upset stomach in many people. Ibuprofen can lead to liver damage if used excessively.
Furthermore, continued use of these synthetic medicines often results in reduced efficacy as the body adapts to the active ingredients. Consequently, you need to increase your dosage to get the same pain management benefits, and the danger of side effects also rises.
The Best Remedies for Pain
Herbs and other plants have been used for centuries to treat a wide array of ailments, including pain. Today, physicians with a holistic view still look to many of these traditional remedies. Take for instance, Willow bark, derived from the white willow tree, has amazing pain-reducing properties similar to aspirin.
In one study at the University of Sydney, a group of patients were treated with willow bark and another group with refecoxib, a cox-2 inhibitor. After four weeks, both groups reported an equal reduction in pain levels. Another study in the American Journal of Medicine showed that lower back pain sufferers who took a 240 mg dose of willow bark extract experienced improvement in just one week.
Some natural pain relievers have probably made an appearance in your kitchen. Capsaicin, the substance that gives chile peppers their heat, is sold as a cream to treat soreness and pain. Rubbing it on the skin creates an analgesic effect that reduced pain by 42% in people who had been treated with the cream for three weeks, according to one study.
Boswalia extract, derived from frankincense, may reduce pain symptoms by 90% within 8 weeks. Cherries, a favorite summer staple, actually have anti-inflammatory properties that can soothe certain conditions. Eat a bowl everyday. Turmeric, a popular Indian spice, is another natural anti-inflammatory and is most effective when eaten with black pepper. Finally, ginger tea is an easy alternative that may ease the inflammation that causes pain.
Nourishing the body with the proper vitamins and minerals can help with pain management as well. Vitamin B12 was found to relieve back pain in a double-blind Italian research study. Magnesium, which supports muscle, nerve and immune function, was shown to reduce pain in a study conducted by German researchers.
A study at the University of Minnesota concluded that vitamin D deficiency may be a significant factor in musculoskeletal pain. Be sure to get the recommended daily allowance for your age and size. Other alternative treatments for pain include acupuncture, yoga and music therapy.
As you can see, the possibilities are endless when it comes to natural pain treatment. Discuss these alternatives with your doctor and learn which ones may be right for you. When it comes to herbal remedies, check with your doctor to avoid any harmful interactions with other medications or natural supplements you may be taking. Actively managing your pain is the first step to becoming active and pain free for life.
Mark Bromson, M.D.