By definition, a painkiller is any drug that helps fight pain. Unfortunately, most pain killers and other pharmaceuticals have damaging long term effects on the body. This includes long time use of over the counter pain relievers like aspirin-acetaminophen, ibuprofen, naproxen sodium and other over the counter medications. Adverse reactions and side effects with long time use more common than one would think.
Many cases of renal diseases and failure are due to using over the counter pain relievers for extended periods. Most of the medications the body ingests have to filter through the kidneys and liver which are two of the main body organs. Because they work to filter toxins they are the two organs that are hit hard from medication overuse. This doesn’t include low tolerance and allergic reactions to medications that can be lethal as well. There is also a tendency to get addicted to certain medications particularly pain killers.
All medical drugs also have side effects over time because your body is constantly processing chemicals that are not natural to it. With this said, there are alternatives available for common ailments including pain relief. These alternatives are not considered part of the pharmacology of the conventional western medical community or the large pharmaceutical companies in association with them. These type of remedies fall under the category of what is referred to as “Natural medicine.”
For the most part, all pain medications reduce pain by blocking the bodies chemicals that trigger the pain response. There are natural medicines available that are considered just as effective as some of the other types of medicines out there. This includes over the counter medications as well as some prescription pain relievers. These natural alternatives prove effective at relieving pain without the side effects and adverse reactions.
It can be safely said that almost everyone will or has experienced some sort of physical pain in their life. It is a fact that most of us will at some point run to the drug store for an over the counter relief for some type of pain or discomfort as well. Science does not know exactly why the body reacts to painkilling medications they just know they do.
They know that the body in pain mode either by damaged tissue or inflammation releases certain chemicals by the way of the nervous system to the brain which we interpret after it registers as pain. The different painkilling medication works in different ways with the body to help it minimize the pain it is registering. NSAIDs (Non-Steroidal Anti Inflammatory Drugs) such as over the counter aspirin, ibuprofen and things of that nature, work by blocking a pain-producing enzyme our bodies make. Other NSAIDs like Paracetamol acts directly with the brain to block the pain-causing chemicals called prostaglandins.
Prescription medications particularly opioids which are used for pain can be highly addictive and have to be used with the strictest medical supervision. Primarily taken as a pill or oral suspension, they can also be crushed and then powder snorted or injected.
Opioids also if not used properly can be overdosed and can cause death. How they work in the body is to attach themselves to specific proteins in the body called opioid receptors which are found in the brain, spinal cord, and gastrointestinal tract. When they attach to the opioid receptors it changes the way a person perceives pain. This type of medication also affects the part of the brain with which we perceive pleasure. Many people become addicted to this reason because it induces a state of euphoria. It can suppress breathing which is one of the causes of death from this type of drug.
Steroids which are given for things like inflammation and asthma work on the cell receptors by filling the cells and telling them to make more protein at a faster rate. They metabolize in the body hitting the liver first. That’s why people who take steroids for long periods of time also have to have their liver monitored because prolonged use causes severe liver damage. Steroids may also be addictive.
Although effective, many of the pain-relieving drugs do come with long term effects on the body. All of them can cause stomach and digestive problems because they all eventually irritate the stomach lining. They can eventually cause the lining to become damaged with erosion. Even aspirin can cause ulcers. It has been documented as a side effect that the Over the counter Ibuprofen drugs eventually cause the leaky gut syndrome. This is a condition where the stomach becomes permeated and undigested protein molecules slip through the holes which contribute to a wide range of inflammatory and autoimmune diseases.
There is also evidence linking NSAIDs to the acceleration of degenerative changes like in arthritic joints making the condition over the long term even worse. I already mentioned kidney damage with the taking of these drugs earlier in this chapter. A study done in the University of Liverpool concluded that one out of every fifteen admissions was due to adverse drug reactions and NSAIDs were included.
I am not advocating to use over the counter and prescription medications by any means. I am only saying that there are alternatives to constantly bombarding our bodies with these type of chemicals. Many traditional societies still use natural remedies for their common aches, pains, and ailments. Today many of the scientists and medical practitioners are going into areas where traditional medicine is practiced because they feel that there is something to be learned by those natural medicines that these cultures use.
A Look at Natural and Alternative Pain Managers
I do not advocate that a person should not go to a conventional doctor. Quite the contrary, but I do feel that we all need to look into additional ways to help ourselves besides conventional means. Here is a list of some of the more popular alternatives for managing various pain.
I like these because anyone can do this and they are not toxic to the body. The most natural and alternative pain relievers are used by chronic pain suffer from various types of chronic pain issues. These types of chronic pain, for the most part, include headaches, migraines, myofascial pain, muscular and connective tissue pain, organ pain and just pain in general.
The main drawback with natural remedies is that they do not work as quickly as the conventional pain relievers so it’s a trade-off. Slow steady relief in exchange for the decrease of side effects, toxicity, and adverse reactions. Some people decrease their use of prescription and over the counter pain relievers and increase the natural methods.
In this case, they are using both conventional and natural medicine together. Many times people will incorporate natural means and save the pharmaceutical pain relievers when absolutely necessary. They use their prescriptions for severe and acute bouts of pain and manage the chronic pain with both natural and Over the counter medications. If nothing works but the pharmaceutical relievers for someone there is nothing wrong with that. But here are some alternative means for pain relief that you may find useful in combating your pains as a supplement to your pharmaceutical prescriptions and Over the Counter Drugs.
Natural things you can do with mind and body yourself to alleviate pain
These are some holistic approaches to the pain you can do yourself. They do not cost anything but your mind, body, and spirit
Go deep into the pain
This is a mind over matter technique. When you accept the pain, it loses power over you. Sometimes it hurts more when we resist because we tense our bodies up. This technique doesn’t eliminate the pain but when you accept it fully and allow it to flow through your entire being, it tends to change in intensity and you are able to work with the pain. Resisting the pain allows it to become stagnant and stay in one spot intensely. When you are able to; take a moment to focus on the pain. Accept it. Allow it to flow through your body. As you embrace it, it lessens even if it doesn’t subside.
Breath into the Pain
Breathing deeply into pain is another alternative for coping with pain. With this technique, you close your eyes and breathe deeply through your nose with your mouth closed. Your abdomen should expand when you inhale, the air should not go into the chest, nor should the chest expand. As you release the breath slowly and your abdominal muscles contract in; use your mind’s eye to focus on the pain and breathe into that area. Visualize the breath going into the area causing pain and melting the pain away. Keep doing it in the area of pain until you feel it lessen. Then if needed do the same thing in another area of pain. It takes several breaths to release pain. It also takes practice to be able to focus on the pain. The more you do it the better you get at it. You can do this anywhere even in public. You may not want to close your eyes in public, however.
Stretch your Face and Jaw (Effective especially for facial, neck and shoulder pains)
The first step is opening your mouth as wide as it will go and then forcing it to open even a little more. When you feel the muscles in your jaw and head tingling, you release. This may be extremely painful at first. But it releases the pain ultimately and then you will find some relief. (For some it can be so painful it brings tears, that’s ok. ) Next, you want to pull your lips over your teeth and stretch the front facial muscles. You can experiment by stretching your jaw in different directions till it hurts so bad you can’t take it then relax the stretch. Its recommended to do this several times and then follow with the breathing exercise in #2. Breathe into the pain source. Breath into the jaw muscle, collar bone, connective tissue, and shoulder areas.
Self Massage and applying pressure to the Trigger Points
Using the second and third fingers in circular motions you first gently massage the area of pain. This is also effective in areas where the organs are painful. Then, you use the thumb and press into the trigger area that corresponds to the pain. There are charts available for trigger point if you aren’t sure where the spot that triggers the pain is located. You can use the two fingers as explained above, but the thumb works better in deeper or denser tissue. You press the trigger points until you feel like going through the ceiling from the pain and then release. This helps stimulate flow into the afflicted area. You do this to all the painful and tender areas, following with breathing #2.
Take hot showers. Make the water as hot as you can take it. Be sure you keep the door closed to create steam which can help pained areas also. While in the shower you can apply trigger point pressing techniques followed by the breathing all while in the shower.
It has been shown that having sex can actually help head pains, generalized muscular pain, and migraines. Having an orgasm at the beginning of a migraine headache has been known to stop them from going any further to full blown. Sex produces pain-relieving chemicals in the body and takes your mind away from the body area generating the pain. If your partner isn’t available do what you have to do yourself. I don’t think I need to go into details.
If you are able to walk try and take a brisk 20 to 35 minute one every day. It stimulates circulation and flows throughout your body. It also releases pain-killing effects on the body. You might want to consider working walking into your daily regimen
Sleep or Meditate
This is more beneficial with milder pains but some practice the techniques and uses it with more severe pains effectively. In some cases, the pain may be too intense to go into a relaxed state of sleep but you may be able to relax a little anyway enough for a semi-sleep/semi-meditative state which may prove beneficial for you too.
The first thing is to lay down and close your eyes. Then while your eyes are closed you want to do the breathing exercise number #2 for every part of your body starting with your head and ending with your toes. Sometimes this enables people to fall asleep. Sleep repairs and heals the body. If you can’t sleep then use a mantra or relaxing visualization to keep you in the relaxed as a possible state for as long as you can maintain it.
Nurture Your Soul
Do whatever you need to get in touch with your form of god or beliefs to give yourself comfort. Also, do something that you enjoy on a deep level. It could be walking in nature, writing, taking a class; whatever makes you feel fulfilled and like a whole being in the universe of what god is to you.
Expressing Your Pain Verbally
Just as it is found healing to release emotional pain through verbally expressing it, the same goes for physical pain. Many times it is found that physical pain is intertwined with emotional pain and vice-versa. Expressing how you feel about the pain helps release it…You can do it alone, or with someone you feel has compassion for you. Write it out if you are not a verbal person. The main thing is to release it into the universe to help free yourself from it in some form.
Counting out loud: For Brief “Needle Stick” Pain
What science studies say about counting and pain is Patients who counted backward from 100 out loud during an injection experienced and recalled less pain, according to a recent Japanese study. None of the 46 patients who counted complained afterward and only one of them could remember the pain from the injection at all. Among the 46 patients who didn’t count, 19 said the injection hurt and 10 recalled what it felt like.
Recitation might work by distracting the brain from processing the sensation, says study author Tomoko Higashi, MD, of Yokohama City University Medical Center in Kanagawa, Japan. The trick is probably only useful for short or acute periods, she says, adding that “The degree of pain reduction really depends on how well patients concentrate on counting.”
Saliva has been found to generate a natural painkiller of up to six times more strength than morphine. The substance produced by human saliva is similar to opiorphin and has been said to generate a new class of natural painkillers. Opiorphin is far better than the traditional drug morphine. Morphine is addictive and has psychosomatic side effects. The researchers demonstrated that the opiorphin acts in nerve cells of the spine and stops the usual destruction of the natural pain-killing opiates, known as the enkephalins.
These techniques may or may not work for you. We are not all the same nor do we have the same tolerance or mechanisms to release pain. But these are some techniques that don’t cost anything more than a little of your time to help you. Now let’s move on to other forms of natural pain relief.
Top Natural Pain Relievers
Here is a listing of those natural substances that top the list for pain help.
Oils: These two oils have been shown to help in relieving pain
among their other qualities that promote overall health
Fish oil contains two essential omega-3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). These fatty acids are known to block the production of inflammatory chemicals called cytokines and leukotrienes in the body.
The fatty acids are responsible for a range of painful conditions including rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, gout, and sinusitis. Researchers found that eating 3 grams of fish fats a day relieved joint pain, inflammation, and morning stiffness associated with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and reduced the drug requirement. In another study of rheumatoid arthritis, patients daily supplementation with 2.7 grams of EPA and 1.8 grams of DHA resulted in a striking reduction in the number of tender joints.
It also increased the time span before fatigue appeared with these patients. Various other studies have shown that the same dosage of fish oil can reduce the severity of Crohn’s disease by more than 50 percent. This significant reduction made it possible for many patients to stop anti-inflammatory medication and steroids in relation to their condition. How to try it: Taking 1,000 mg is proven to help your heart, but you should up the dose for pain.
For osteoarthritis, try 2,000 to 4,000 mg daily; for rheumatoid arthritis and autoimmune diseases associated with joint pain (such as lupus), consider a much higher dose of upwards of 8,000 mg daily — but ask your doctor about such a large amount first, says Tanya Edwards, MD, medical director at the Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Integrative Medicine. (The same rule applies if you take Blood Pressure or heart medications because omega-3s can thin the blood.) Read the nutrition label carefully: The dosage refers to the amount of omega-3s in a capsule, not other ingredients.
Olive oil has been found to contain a natural chemical which acts as the anti-inflammatory pain killer ibuprofen. The active ingredient in olive oil is oleocanthal, which influences the same biochemical pathway as ibuprofen and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). The researchers concluded that 50 grams of extra-virgin olive oil was comparable to about 10 percent of the ibuprofen dose recommended for adult pain relief. Although headache will not be cured with this, yet regular olive oil consumption is expected to provide some of the long-lasting benefits of ibuprofen.
Top Herbal pain relievers- These are the above board leading herbs used to combat various pains
Arnica: For acute injury or post-surgery swelling
What the science says: This herb comes from a European flower; although its healing mechanism is still unknown, it does have natural anti-inflammatory properties. Taking oral homeopathic arnica after a tonsillectomy decreases pain, say British researchers, and German doctors found that it reduces surgery-related knee swelling.
How to try it: Use homeopathic arnica as an adjunct to ice, herbs, or conventional pain medication. Rub arnica ointment on bruises or strained muscles, or take it in the form of three lactose pellets under the tongue up to six times per day.
Aquamin: For osteoarthritis
What the science says: This red seaweed supplement is rich in calcium and magnesium. A preliminary clinical study showed that the ingredients may reduce joint inflammation or even help build bone, says David O’Leary of Marigot, Aquamin’s Irish manufacturer. In a study of 70 volunteers published in Nutrition Journal, Aquamin users reduced arthritis pain by 20 percent in a month and had less stiffness than patients taking a placebo.
How to try it: Marigot recommends 2,400 mg a day (two capsules) of Aquamin in tablet form, sold domestically in products such as Aquamin Sea Minerals and Cal-Sea-Um. A 60-pill jar of Swanson Vegetarian Aquamin Sea Minerals costs about $6
The Indian herb Boswellia has been shown in clinical trials to be as effective as conventional drugs for rheumatoid arthritis (RA) pain. India’s Council for Scientific and Industrial Research undertook a series of studies to find herbal-based anti-inflammatory products with beneficial effects on rheumatic diseases without side effects. They concluded that Boswellic acids, the active constituents in Boswellia, are more potent and less toxic than standard NSAIDs. Boswellic acids are thought to be analgesic and to reduce the production of inflammatory chemicals (leukotrienes).
In a comparative study involving 175 rheumatoid arthritis patients, 97 percent reported moderate to excellent improvements in pain, joint swelling and morning stiffness after taking 450 to 750 mg of boswellic acids daily for three to four weeks. These results equaled those for patients taking the conventional drugs ketoprofen and phenylbutazone, but unlike the drug treatments, boswellic acids caused no undesirable side effects. As well as supplements, Boswellia is available as a cream for topical application.
Boswellic acids, the active ingredients in Boswellia, are more potent and less toxic than standard NSAIDs. Boswellic acids decrease the production of inflammatory compounds, the leukotrienes that are implicated in many chronic diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis.
Capsaicin: For Arthritis, Shingles, or Neuropathy
What science says: An active component of chile pepper, capsaicin temporarily desensitizes pain-prone skin nerve receptors called C-fibers; soreness is diminished for 3 to 5 weeks while they regain sensation. Nearly 40 percent of arthritis patients reduced their pain by half after using topical capsaicin cream for a month, and 60 percent of neuropathy patients achieved the same after 2 months, according to a University of Oxford study. Patients at the New England Center for Headache decreased their migraine and cluster headache intensity after applying capsaicin cream inside their nostrils.
How to try it: Capsaicin ointments and creams are sold in pharmacies and health stores. For arthritis or neuropathy, try 0.025 percent or 0.075 percent capsaicin cream one to four times daily; best results can take up to 2 weeks, says Philip Gregory, PharmD, a professor at Creighton University and editor of the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. But research on capsaicin and headaches remains limited — and don’t expect stronger versions anytime soon: “Current formulations are better suited for more acute problems, like a sore muscle or an arthritis flare-up, than everyday pain and stiffness,” Gregory says.
Turmeric contains the compound curcumin, which is a powerful painkiller known to block inflammatory proteins and enhance the body’s ability to suppress inflammation. Turmeric is used in place of NSAIDs without any side effects to the organs including stomach, heart, liver, and kidneys.
Various studies put forth that curcumin eases the chronic pain of rheumatoid arthritis. The pain relievers found in curcumin stop the neurotransmitter substance P from sending its pain signals to the brain. Curcumin also decreases inflammation by reducing prostaglandin activity. 400 to 600 mg of curcumin should be consumed three times daily. In order to improve absorption, it can be consumed with equal amounts of bromelain, an anti-inflammatory enzyme found in pineapples–20 minutes before meals.
Devil’s claw (Harpagophytum procumbens) is a herb that is best known for treating the pain associated with arthritis and one French trial has found it as effective as, and safer than, the anti-arthritis drug diacerhein.
This is another herb that is best known for alleviating back pain and arthritis. The active ingredients in this herb native to South Africa; in the roots of this plant are called iridoid glycosides that are responsible for producing its analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects.
One four-month study included around 120 people with knee and hip osteoarthritis and put forth that devil’s claw decreased pain and increased function as good as a regular osteoarthritis medicine, but with a lot fewer side effects. Two clinical trials in Germany found that pain intensity, muscle spasms, and muscle tenderness were all substantially reduced in patients taking devil’s claw extract, compared with those taking a placebo.
People with gastric ulcers should consume the devil’s claw with caution since it increases gastric acid production.
This herb is another herb known to the ancient Greeks and used by them as a remedy for inflammation and period pains. Feverfew contains a range of active compounds called sesquiterpene lactones, the most important of which is parthenolide.
Double-blind trials have shown that feverfew can reduce the frequency, severity, and duration of migraine headaches if taken long-term. In one such study, reported in the Lancet, 72 migraine sufferers took a placebo for a month, then half of them took a feverfew supplement for a further four months (while the others continued to take a placebo).
The groups were then switched around for a further four months. Neither the researchers nor the participants in the study knew which group was receiving the feverfew.
The conclusion of the study was that feverfew was associated with significant improvements and was free from side effects. However, feverfew is not an effective treatment for an acute migraine attack.
The famous Greek physician Hippocrates recommended a tea made
from willow leaves for combating pain. Only at the end of the 19th century, however, was the bark of the white willow (Salix alba) discovered to contain a compound called salicylic acid. Aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid) is a synthetic form of this chemical.
It’s primary compound, salicylic acid, has many of the same analgesic and anti-inflammatory actions as aspirin. It inhibits prostaglandin production, relieves pain, and soothes fevers. Unlike aspirin, it does not thin the blood. Nor does it irritate the stomach lining – a common side effect of aspirin. Although it is slower-acting, a supplement of white willow bark can provide all the pain-relieving benefit of aspirin without the drug’s notorious side effect of stomach irritation.
In a placebo-controlled trial, 39 percent of patients with lower back pain who took white willow bark extract reported a significant reduction in pain, in most cases within the first week of treatment. This compared with six percent who reported improvement while taking a placebo. Although white willow is far less irritating to the stomach than aspirin, people with peptic ulcers or gastritis should still use this herb with caution.
This herb is used to treat fever, colds, headaches, minor infections and pain from inflammation. The analgesic properties of this herb are usually slower to take effect but last longer than aspirin. Available as capsules and salicin tablets.
CAUTIONS: As with aspirin, there is a rare risk of developing Reye’s syndrome. Do not give to children who have viral infections, chickenpox symptoms or flu. Do not combine with aspirin or use if you have an allergic reaction to aspirin.
According to researchers at Michigan State University, the eating of about 20 tart cherries may relieve pain better than aspirin and may also exhibit antioxidant properties comparable to supplements like vitamin E. That number of cherries are said to contain 12-25 milligrams of the active ingredients, called anthocyanins. Anthocyanins inhibited cyclooxygenase-1 and -2 enzymes, which were the targets of anti-inflammatory drugs at doses more than ten times lower than aspirin. Thus daily consumption of cherries has shown the potential to reduce pain related to inflammation, arthritis, and gout.
Herbs for Acute and Chronic Pain
Some of the favorite pain relieving herbal allies include skullcap, cannabis, valerian, turmeric, poppy, willow bark, St. John’s wort, angelica, motherwort, black cohosh, wild yam, lavender, cayenne, kava kava, and rose.
If you suffer from chronic pain, try drinking four to six cups of skullcap infusions daily, or take 10-15 drops of skullcap tincture four to six times daily. Use skullcap as needed, as often as every few minutes, in acute situations. Skullcap quiets the nervous system, and so will be a valuable ally if you suffer from chronic pain. A combination of equal parts skullcap, St. John’s wort, and oat straw is particularly effective for calming the nervous system and thus easing the pain.
Cayenne (Capsicum) (I mentioned this a little earlier now here is another approach in using this herb.)
This herb is an anti-inflammatory and anti-irritant.
Cayenne is used as a digestive aid to stimulates gastric juices. It also aids metabolism and enhances athletic performance by increasing circulation. It is used for treating arthritis, food poisoning, heat stress, migraines, and obesity. Dried chili peppers are used in creams and capsules.
Capsaicin is known to stimulate circulation and alter temperature regulation. Applied to the skin, capsaicin desensitizes nerve endings and it has been used in the past as a local analgesic. The capsicidins, found in the seeds are thought to have antibiotic properties.
The herb’s heating qualities make it a valuable remedy for poor circulation and related conditions. It improves blood flow to the hands and feet and to the central organs.
Applied topically, cayenne is mildly analgesic and will increase blood flow to affected parts helping to stimulate the circulation in “cold” rheumatic and arthritic conditions.
Cayenne powder placed inside the socks is a traditional remedy for those prone to permanently cold feet.
Cayenne is taken internally to relieve gas and colic, and to stimulate secretion of the digestive juices.
It is also said to prevent infections from establishing themselves in the digestive system.
CAUTIONS: Do not get Cayenne in the eyes. Be especially careful if you wear contacts.
Kava Piper (methysticum)
Black Pepper Family
This South Pacific herb is an analgesic, sedative, and mild euphoriant. It also has antiseptic properties that may be useful in treating urinary tract infection and cystitis.
Kavalactones have a depressant effect on the central nervous system and are antispasmodic. In addition, they have an anesthetic effect on the lining of the urinary tubules and the bladder.
Kava is also useful in treating headache, anxiety, depression, insomnia, and low sex drive.
Kava may be taken a long term to help relieve chronic stress, and its combination of anxiety-relieving and muscle-relaxant properties makes it valuable for treating muscle tension as well as emotional stress.
This herb’s analgesic and cleansing diuretic effects make it beneficial for treating rheumatic and arthritic problems such as gout. It helps to bring relief from pain and to remove waste products from the affected joint.
Kava is available in tinctures and tablets. It should be taken in a form standardized to contain 70% kavalactones.
CAUTIONS: Should not be combined with alcohol or pharmaceutical tranquilizers or antidepressants. Long term usage has been associated with liver and skin damage.
Useful for relieving abdominal pain.
Turmeric Curcuma longa
Because curcumin (was mentioned earlier in this chapter) is an anti-inflammatory agent, it is said to relieve the aches and pains associated with arthritis; improves cardiovascular conditions; has shown to decrease symptoms of skin cancers and reduced the incidence of chemically caused breast cancer in lab animals; and its oil functions as an external antibiotic, preventing bacterial infection in wounds. Curcumin also reduces an active number of genes which is linked to heart disease, colon cancer and Alzheimer’s.
Occasionally shredded and used fresh, turmeric is more often dried and powdered for use. Turmeric extract and turmeric have been used by humans as a food for a very long time and is believed to have little or no toxicity at all when taken in moderate doses. If consumed in recommended amounts, turmeric extract is generally safe. It has been used in large quantities as a condiment and cooking ingredient with no side effects.
Physicians discourage the consumption of Turmeric Extract during pregnancy or breastfeeding as it might cause uterine contraction. Turmeric Extract should not be used by people with gallstones or obstruction of bile passages without consulting their doctor.
As always, consult your physician before taking turmeric or any dietary supplement.