Pain and Inflammation
Pain is a multi-faceted phenomenon that can induce physical or mental suffering caused by injury, disease, accident, grief, or other factors. It can be external (i.e., sprains, cuts, and bruises) and internal (i.e., ulcers, fractures, inflammation, and headaches). Pain ranges from mild to severe, and can extend from an acute (short-term) condition to a lingering, chronic one.
Pain is a major problem in our country, costing over $5 billion annually in pain medications, surgeries, and other treatments. The most common type of pain suffered by Americans is back pain, followed by headaches (migraines), arthritis, and stomach pain. A major problem is not the pain itself, but the side effects of chronic pain-illness caused by depression, seclusion, sedentary lifestyle, and in many cases, addiction to prescription painkillers.
Many natural remedies can provide a measure of relief from pain of varying intensities and duration, although no natural remedy will work like prescription narcotic and non-narcotic pharmaceuticals. For over a century the “gold standard” of pain treatment has always been aspirin, or salicylic acid, which is derived from a plant called Filpendula rubra, America’s queen-of-the-prairie. Although aspirin is highly effective, it has many known side effects with continued, long-term use. Acetominophen (Tylenol) is an effective treatment for moderate pain and fever, but does not work against inflammation or swelling. Many of today’s drugs that are used to fight pain (Percocet, Vicodin, Darvocet, Oxycontin, Celebrex, Vioxx, Ultram, ibuprofen, and codeine) all have either addictive or dependency characteristics, while some medications (Celebrex, Vioxx, Naprosyn, Daypro, and ibuprofen) may be toxic to the liver and irritate the lining of the stomach and intestines. In Fall of 2004, the drug Vioxx was voluntarily pulled off the market by maker Merck & Co, because of the high likelihood of heart and cardiac damage. There are a number of good natural alternatives that can effectively take the place of aspirin, acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and stronger medications.
TYPES OF PAIN
Acute, traumatic injuries – bruises, sprains, strains, muscle pulls, lacerations, wounds, abrasions, fractures, contusions, and hematoma.
Back pain – slipped disc, sciatica, acute and lower back pain
There is a definite connection between food and pain. The most important aspect of following a dietary approach to relieving the pain of arthritis involves identifying food allergies. The most common food allergens are dairy products, wheat gluten, corn, eggs and nuts. In his best-selling book Foods That Fight Pain, noted physician Dr. Neal Barnard lists several foods that induce inflammation and add to the pain process. He emphasizes that, regardless of nutritional value, the following foods tend to increase pain because they cause inflammation: cow’s milk; corn; meat (beef); wheat; eggs; citrus; nightshades (potatoes, tomatoes, bell peppers, eggplant and tobacco); nuts; coffee; and food additives. Minimizing these food choices may lead to a lower pain simply due to lower inflammation in the body.
Magnesium plays an important role in most of the body’s systems. In addition to relaxing smooth muscles, magnesium is vital in maintaining blood pressure, arterial health, and normal heart rhythm. Migraine sufferers seem to be low in the mineral magnesium compared to other people. Magnesium relaxes muscles that can become inflamed due to PMS, strains, sprains, tension, and over-exertion. Dosage: 400-1,000 mg daily.
- MSM (METHYSULFONYLMETHANE)
MSM, a naturally-occurring sulfur-based nutrient found in all living things. It is currently the hottest item in health stores because of its amazing ability to fight pain that is chronic or acute. Unlike NSAIDS and steroids, the all-natural MSM is non-toxic and amazingly free of side effects. MSM helps bind water in the cartilage matrix, keeping it soft and spongy. MSM is believed to increase the body’s ability to eliminate wastes and toxins from the cells. Dosage: 500-3,000 mg daily in divided doses.
- GLUCOSAMINE with CHONDROITIN
This is a natural substance that actually repairs and restores connective tissue, including cartilage, tendons, and ligaments. After six-weeks of therapy, people see a significant decrease in pain from arthritis and other inflammatory responses. Also stimulates joint repair. Dosage: 500-1,500 mg daily.
Bromelain is a protease enzyme like papaya that breaks down proteins, reduces inflammation, and aids tissue repair. Bromelain has been reported in numerous studies to exert a wide variety of beneficial effects, including reducing inflammation in cases of joint disease, sports injury or trauma, and preventing swelling after trauma or surgery. Bromelain selectively stimulates the production of the anti-inflammatory Prostaglandin E1 and inhibits the production of the pro-inflammatory Prostaglandin E2. Dosage: 125-750 mg daily.
- BOSWELLIA and TUMERIC
A gum resin derived from a tree that grows in India, boswellia (also known as frankincense) provides one of nature’s most effective pain and inflammation relievers. Boswellia shows a marked inhibitory effect in the treatment of osteoarthritis. Tumeric (from the dried form of Curcuma longa) has been shown to have a potent anti-inflammatory activity and COX-2 inhibition. Use with caution in patients taking the diabetes drug metformin, due to its potent constriction of renal arteries which may result in hypertension. Dosage: Boswellia, 300 mg 3 times a day; Tumeric, 200-400 mg up to 4 times daily.
- OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS
Omega 3 fatty acids, mostly found in cold-water fish and flaxseed, relieve pain with anti-inflammatory and analgesic compounds. Many clinical studies have demonstrated that the daily use of EPA and DHA reduces the pain and stiffness in patients with osteo and rheumatoid arthritis. Omega-3’s also lower cholesterol, increase energy, and lubricate joints (to relieve arthritis pain). Dosage: 270 mg EPA and 175 mg DHA 3-4 times a day. Use in caution with patients taking warfarin (coumadin).
- SYSTEMIC ENZYMES
Enzymes are one of the most powerful, yet little known secrets to heal and reduce pain and inflammation. A good alternative to taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), enzymes are slower acting then drugs like ibuprofen, but after several days to several weeks their pain-relieving capabilities will outperform these drugs and without toxicity. German researchers have created products such as Wobenzym N, containing enzymes such as pancreatin, papain, bromelain, trypsin and chymotrypsin. Dosage: As directed on package.
Ginger has anti-inflammatory actions that make it useful in patients with muscular discomfort, bursitis and rheumatoid arthritis. Ginger inhibits platelet thromboxane formation and leukotriene and prostaglandin production (inflammatory mediators in the body). Topical application of ginger rhizome has been shown to reduce inflammation. Dosage: 250 mg 3-4 times a day.
- WHITE WILLOW BARK and OTHER COX-2 INHIBITING HERBS
White willow bark (the primary component of aspirin) is a traditionally used treatment for pain, especially lower back pain. The efficacy of this botanical is due mainly to its conversion in the liver to acetyl salicylic acid (ASA), a potent analgesic. Other herbs that elicit an effective pain-relieving effect are CALENDULA, DEVIL’S CLAW, and BROMELAIN. Dosage: 25 mg 3-4 times daily.
- SHARK CARTILAGE
Shark cartilage is a natural anti-inflammatory, immune stimulator and wound-healer that is a rich source of chondroitin and glycosaminoglycan (a glucosamine-like substance). Dosage: 100-800 mg daily.
Phenylalanine is an amino acid that protects endorphins (the body’s natural defense against pain). It relieves pain indirectly by helping the body’s built-in pain-control system. DL phenylalanine (DLPA) has a putative antidepressant property along with pain-relieving properties. Dosage: 500-3,000 mg daily, as directed by qualified practitioner.
- PYCNOGENOL and GRAPE SEED EXTRACT
Derived from the bark of the French maritime pine, pycnogenol is an excellent anti-inflammatory agent. This naturally-occurring bioflavonoid has antioxidant activity and helps protect tissues and cells from free radical damage. Pycnogenol also improves circulation and helps the body recover faster from soft tissue damage and improve joint movement. Grape seed is a powerful antioxidant that reduces swelling and interferes with histamine- an inflammatory mediator in the body. Both can be effective in conditions like tennis elbow, swollen ankles, bursitis, and other short-term inflammatory conditions. Dosage: 50-200 mg daily.
Arnica is a homeopathic remedy that can be taken sublingually (under the tongue) and topically to relieve pain, swelling, and inflammation associated with trauma, surgery, or injury. It can also promote the acceleration of healing. Capsaicin, found in cayenne and other peppers, is used as a topical anti-pain cream. Dosage: As directed.
- SAMe (S-ADENOSYLMETHIONINE)
SAMe is formed in the body from the essential amino acid methionine with ATP. Research studies have proven that SAMe is as effective as ibuprofen and ketoprofen in controlling the symptoms of osteoarthritis, without the negative side effects of NSAIDs. SAMe is also one of the most effective natural anti-depressants when given in an oral form. Dosage: 200-400 mg 2-3 times a day.
- CETYL MYRISTOLEATE
Cetyl myristoleate is a naturally occurring ester of myristoleic acid. This natural anti-arthritic substance also lubricates joints and mediates the inflammatory response. Dosage: As directed.
An herb used to minimize the severity and frequency of migraine headaches. Feverfew has a vasoconstriction action that reduces inflammation. Dosage: As directed on package.
This herb has traditionally been used for its antioxidant activity, but is often recommended for muscular rheumatism. Dosage: 100-300 mg daily.
- ALPHA-LIPOIC ACID (ALA)
ALA is a natural antioxidant that is both water-and fat-soluble. ALA neutralizes harmful free-radicals and enhances the activity of vitamins C and E. It is especially effective in treating pain associated with diabetic neuropathies. Dosage: 400-1,000 mg up to 3-4 times daily.
As with ALA, antioxidant therapy has been shown to prevent nerve dysfunction in patients with diabetes. Acetyl-L-carnitine treats pain associated with neuropathy. It has also been shown to support memory and attention in elderly patients. Dosage: 500-1,000 mg twice a day.
Barnard, N. Foods That Fight Pain, Harmony Books, Crown Publishing Company, New York, NY. 1998.
Black, AJ. Botanical Miracles, the Plants that Combat Muscle Pain. Alive #226. Aug. 2001. Pp. 34-35.
Burke, ER. No More Aching Back. Total Health for Longevity, 22(5): 37-38.
Disease Prevention and Treatment. Third Edition. Life Media Extension, 2000. Hollywood, Fl.
Flexizyme and Ligaflex. Product reports. BioMed Report, Summer 2004, 3(3).
Hahn, JE. Integrative Therapies for Chronic Pain and Inflammation Management. Integrative Medicine, Oct/Nov 2005. 4(5): 20-26
Loes, M. Wobenzym N Systemic Oral Enzymes. The Doctor’s Prescription for Healthy Living, Authorized by Wobenzym N outlets, Scottsdale, AZ.
Marion, JB. Anti Aging Manual. Information Pioneers, S. Woodstock, CT. 1996
Pain X, Product Information from Biogenesis, www.biogenesis.com
Up Next: Diabetes