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Ounce of Prevention | Relieve pain the natural way

Published:Monday | July 31, 2017 | 12:00 AM
In this file photo, Valerie Beaumont (right) uses Chi reflexology to soothe this patron.

Pain is a symptom, not a disease. It is an important signal from your body trying to warn you of some underlying disorder. Modern medicine has provided us with a bewildering array of drugs for the relief of pain, and many of them do not even need a doctor's prescription.

If you experience pain, the best action you can take is to seek to identify the cause of your pain. Then, even if you need to take something for pain relief, you can also begin to address the underlying cause.


Problems with Painkillers


These medicines are widely used, often abused, and contrary to popular belief, are far from harmless. They include well-known drugs like aspirin and acetaminophen, as well as a large group called the NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) that include Advil, Ibuprofen, Indomethacin, Motrin, and Voltaren. Let's examine some of these drugs.




Aspirin, acetylsalicylic acid (ASA) was first made in 1853 and has since become a preferred treatment for simple pains and fever. Today, many people reach for this drug at the first hint of pain, and many doctors now recommend that it be taken on a daily basis for the prevention of heart attacks, the most commonkiller today.

Aspirin is generally regarded as being safe enough to not require a prescription. A normal dose of aspirin for pain is two tablets every four to six hours per day, but a pain sufferer might take more than twice this amount.

Unfortunately, aspirin has a long list of side effects, including: gastritis, peptic ulcer, intestinal bleeding, haemorrhagic shock, and even sudden death. Aspirin can also increase the risk of macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness, as well as cataracts. Aspirin is also one of the main causes of death from poisoning each year.




Many people take acetaminophen e.g. Tylenol, at least once a month, and it is now the most widely used pain reliever in the United States. However taking more than the recommended dose can lead to fatal liver injury, and acetaminophen poisoning is now the most common cause of acute liver failure in the North America. Attempted suicides account for many cases, but almost half are the result of unintentional overdoses.




With more people having chronic pain, the drug companies churn out more and more of this class of painkiller. Though sometimes helpful in the short term, with chronic use, these drugs create many problems like gastritis, bleeding peptic ulcers and kidney damage, as well as increased destruction of cartilage in arthritic joints. Yet, many people are kept on these medications for years, with negative consequences.




Opioids are powerful painkiller drugs like morphine, pethedine, codeine hydrocodone, oxycodone and methadone. These prescription drugs reduce the brain's recognition of pain and are often chosen for controlling severe pain such as that caused by cancer. People can develop a tolerance to these drugs and need higher and higher doses to achieve the same degree of pain relief. Also, one can become physically dependent on them and an overdose can be fatal. The US now faces an opioid epidemic from the widespread abuse of opioid prescription painkillers.

Natural pain relievers

Ganja: Substances in cannabis called the cannabinols are extremely useful in the control of various types of pain. Research at the University of Michigan published in the Journal of Pain provides some compelling evidence. It showed that cannabis reduced patients' need for pain medication by 64 per cent while lowering drug side effects. Cannabis is particularly useful for migraine headaches, nerve (neuropathic) pain, arthritis, and cancer pain. Medicinal cannabis with specific concentrations of THC and CBD, the major cannabinols is now available for topical or internal use.

Ginger and turmeric: Ginger roots as anti-inflammatory substances called gingerols that offer pain relief and stomach-settling benefits. Fresh ginger works well as a tea or grated into juice. It may also be applied externally as a pack to painful joints and muscles. It's cousin, turmeric, works in a similar fashion

Boswellia is a herb that contains specific anti-inflammatory ingredients known as boswellic acids that research has shown significantly reduce inflammation particularly in arthritis.

Enzymes: Bromelain an enzyme, found in pineapples, is a natural anti-inflammatory substance. It can be taken in supplement form, but eating fresh pineapples may also be helpful. Papain, another enzymes found in papaya is also useful for inflammation.

Cayenne, also called capsaicin, is a spice from hot peppers. When applied as a cream it alleviates pain by lowering the levels of substance P, a chemical in nerve cells that transmits pain signals to the brain.

Tang Kuei is a famous Chinese herb that has powerful antispasmodic, analgesic, relaxing properties. It is ideal for the relief of menstrual pains.

Fish oils: The omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA found in fish oil have been shown, in many clinical studies, to have powerful anti-inflammatory properties that reduce inflammation, increase blood flow and promote joint lubrication without negative side effects. All inflammatory conditions benefit from supplementing with several gram of omega 3 daily.

Vitamins and minerals: These natural substances are essential for the proper function of the nervous system. The B vitamins increase the pain threshold and reduce the need for pain medication while making those drugs work more effectively. The mineral magnesium, as well as the antioxidant vitamins C and E, provide similar benefits.

Energy therapies: Pain responds well to a variety of mind-body therapies like hypnosis, reflexology, acupuncture, acupressure, body talk, emotional freedom therapy, and therapeutic touch.

Aromatherapy using essential oils like lavender and rosemary offers powerful stress-relieving and analgesic properties. Simply rub a few drops of the oil in your palms and inhale the fragrance for a few moments and notice the change in your feelings.

The wonderful thing is that most of these natural treatments are non-toxic and can be self-administered. The next time you are tempted to take pain medication, consider these gentler, safer options.

- You may email Dr, Vendryes at tonyvendryes@gmail.com or listen to An Ounce of Prevention on POWER106FM on Fridays at 9:00pm. Visit www.tonyvendryes.com for details on his books and articles.