The Dangers of Pain Medicine—And Safe, Natural Alternatives

The Dangers of Pain Medicine—And Safe, Natural Alternatives

You’ve heard about the opioid epidemic. But behind this devastating spike in medication use and dependency, there’s another epidemic: Chronic pain.  

It’s estimated today that chronic pain impacts around 40% of American adults.1 That’s 53 million people living under the oppressive condition of constant pain. And this doesn’t even include another 21 million dealing with more intensive, high-impact chronic pain that prevents them from living normal lives. High impact chronic pain is a debilitating condition that can impact anyone, but is more common among older people and women. 

The tragic reality is that chronic pain hits more people than cancer, diabetes, and heart disease combinedAnd with conventional medicine, many of these people don’t get to experience the relief that they desperately need, being prescribed instead pharmaceutical painkillers with a long list of dangerous side effects. 

But what most people don’t realize is that even mild, over-the-counter (OTC) pain killers can have serious negative impacts on your health.  

The good news is that there are natural alternatives that can help address acute and chronic pain, while delivering additional health benefits for overall wellness.  

How Pain Changes You 

Chronic pain changes everything. It impacts every part of your life, making simple tasks more difficult, and difficult tasks seem impossible. Quality of life is dramatically reduced.  

Under these circumstances, it’s easy to see why so many people would do anything to put an end to the pain—even if it means enduring long-term health risks that come with taking painkillers.  

A Look Inside the Opioid Crisis  

Over the last two decades, there has been a steep rise in prescriptions for highly addictive opioid pain medications of varying strengths.  But as the number of prescriptions increased, so did the number of overdoses and deaths.2 Not to mention the lives derailed by dependency and overuse of these incredibly powerful and dangerous drugs.  

To complicate this epidemic: Opioid drugs don’t stop, prevent or heal the source of pain.3 In fact, they actually slow healing, actively prolonging your pain.4 Plus, these drugs come with devastating side effects and complications, including:5,6 

  • heavy sedation  
  • respiratory problems 
  • GI problems (vomiting, constipation) 
  • depression 
  • increased pain sensitivity 
  • immune suppression 
  • neurological impacts 
  • addiction and dependency 

Another complicating factor is that because of the widespread opioid crisis, many doctors are increasingly skeptical of pain patients who may need medication, at least temporarily. Meanwhile, many others with chronic pain are looking to avoid addictions and heavy side effects—so they turn to OTC pain killers.  

But these drugs too, are shown to cause problems.  

All Pain Drugs Come with Side Effects 

The truth is, there is no completely safe pharmaceutical pain reliever.  

The dangers of prescription painkillers are well documented, but they warrant a reminder just how problematic they can be—especially when used over time. Vioxx for example proved to be so dangerous it was pulled from the market. Other forms, like the drug Celebrex,7 continue to be prescribed regularly despite their well-known risks, including heart attacks and strokes.  

Let’s take a look at OTC (non-prescription) pain medication like ibuprofen or aspirin.  

These are called NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) and they’re by far the most commonly used pain medications. When used sparingly, NSAIDs can offer important relief from chronic pain. For optimal safety, use the lowest possible dose for the shortest possible period of time, to get relief. It’s also very important to cycle off of these drugs and take breaks for 7 to 10 days each month.  

However, increasing research shows that NSAIDs can actually be quite dangerous – even deadly.8 Specifically, NSAIDs are shown to increase your risk of: 

  • Cardiovascular problems, including heart attack9,10 
  • GI inflammation and bleeding11,12 
  • Liver damage13 
  • Kidney disease14 

Then there’s acetaminophen, sometimes called the “safest” pain medication. However, this specific drug can be devastating for your liver. In fact, acetaminophen plays a role in nearly half of all cases of acute liver failure! It’s the reason behind 20% of all liver transplants.15  

Fortunately, there are many safe, effective, natural options to turn to that won’t put your vital organs at risk. Studies show that the right natural painkillers can make a big difference over time… by addressing the root causes of chronic pain, while modulating neurological pain pathways and supporting greater strength and vitality.  

What’s Underneath Chronic Pain? 

Chronic pain can be traced back to a root cause, like an injury, infection or a disease. The most common causes of chronic pain include: 

  • Lower back injury 
  • Arthritis 
  • Headaches 
  • Nerve damage 
  • Conditions like fibromyalgia, cancer, and multiple sclerosis (MS) 

The root source of pain, whether acute or chronic, is inflammation.16 A normal and necessary immune system response to threats, inflammation is part of a healthy response system—but that means it’s supposed to shut off when the threat has subsided. But with chronic pain conditions, inflammatory signals rage on, leaving you trapped in a cycle of destruction.  

8 Ways to Naturally Ease Chronic Pain 

These eight natural approaches can offer both short term relief and long-term pain management and reduction—something prescription drugs generally won’t do. By addressing the pain process, these safe, effective choices stop pain and inflammation in different places along the path, allowing you to be in control of your pain. And unlike prescription and OTC drugs, you can safely use these eight natural pain-relieving methods in any combination… for your perfect pain management plan. 

  1. Gentle movement— Yoga, Tai chi and Qi gong, have all been shown to offer significant relief for chronic pain conditions including arthritis and lower back pain.17 

  1. MeditationMindful breathing and meditation can reduce pain intensity by engaging areas of the brain associated with pain processing.18 

  1. VisualizationAlone or part of guided meditation, visualization has been shown to help relieve pain, and reduce stress and depression in chronic pain patients.19 

  1. Tibetan Herbal FormulaThis classical formula for circulation, inflammation, joint health and mobility and other benefits is backed by 30+ clinical studies, and has been used by traditional healers for generations to treat chronic inflammatory conditions20 and effectively increase the pain-free walking distance in patients with chronic leg pain.21 

  1. HonokiolA highly active extract purified from magnolia, honokiol plays multiple roles in pain management: Reducing inflammation, supporting neurological wellness, and actively quieting pain signals for effective pain relief.22,23,24 

  1. CurcuminThe key active compound in turmeric, curcumin extract relieves pain and inflammation in patients suffering from conditions such as arthritis and migraines.25,26,27 

  1. Modified Citrus Pectin (MCP)This super-nutrient ingredient is extensively researched and shown to block the alarm protein galectin-3, that triggers the inflammatory cascade.28,29 By blocking galectin-3, MCP reduces the inflammation and fibrosis behind chronic pain, delivering lasting relief.30 

  1. Boswellia—Extracted from frankincense, boswellia stops pain by controlling the 5-LOX inflammation pathway, as well as increasing pain threshold and tolerance.31,32 

Pain Free and Healthy

The truth is, pain is a natural part of our biological survival system. But like so many other alarms in the body, pain signals can become trapped in a destructive cycle of inflammation, and further damage and degradation of joints, tissues and organs. With these natural solutions, however, you can address the underlying causes of pain, while reducing inflammatory signals, supporting neurological wellness, and promoting greater long-term health in the process.

Sources:

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4. Shanmugam VK, Couch KS, McNish S, Amdur RL. Relationship between opioid treatment and rate of healing in chronic wounds. Wound Repair Regen. 2017;25(1):120-130. doi:10.1111/wrr.12496

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10. Gislason GH, Rasmussen JN, Abildstrom SZ, Schramm TK, Hansen ML, Fosbøl EL, Sørensen R, Folke F, Buch P, Gadsbøll N, Rasmussen S, Poulsen HE, Køber L, Madsen M, Torp-Pedersen C. Increased mortality & cardiovascular morbidity associated with use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs in chronic heart failure. Arch Intern Med. 2009 Jan 26;169(2):141-9. 

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12.  Lee MW, Katz PO. Nonsteroidal Antiinflammatory Drugs, Anticoagulation, & Upper Gastrointestinal Bleeding. Clin Geriatr Med. 2021 Feb;37(1):31-42. doi: 10.1016/j.cger.2020.08.004. Epub 2020 Nov 2. 

13.  Sriuttha P, Sirichanchuen B, Permsuwan U. Hepatotoxicity of Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs: A Systematic Review of Randomized Controlled Trials. Int J Hepatol. 2018;2018:5253623. Published 2018 Jan 15. doi:10.1155/2018/5253623.

14.  Lucas GNC, Leitão ACC, Alencar RL, Xavier RMF, Daher EF, Silva Junior GBD. Pathophysiological aspects of nephropathy caused by non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. J Bras Nefrol. 2019;41(1):124-130. doi:10.1590/2175-8239-JBN-2018-0107.

 15. Yoon E, Babar A, Choudhary M, Kutner M, Pyrsopoulos N. Acetaminophen-Induced Hepatotoxicity: a Comprehensive Update. J Clin Transl Hepatol. 2016;4(2):131-142. 

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21.  Drabaek H, Mehlsen J, Himmelstrup H, Winther K. A botanical compound, Padma 28, increases walking distance in stable intermittent claudication. Angiology. 1993 Nov;44(11):863-7. doi: 10.1177/000331979304401103. PMID: 8239057.

22.  Khalid S, Khan A, Shal B, Ali H, Kim YS, Khan S. Suppression of TRPV1 and P2Y nociceptors by honokiol isolated from Magnolia officinalis in 3rd degree burn mice by inhibiting inflammatory mediators. Biomed Pharmacother. 2019 Jun;114:108777. doi: 10.1016/j.biopha.2019.108777. Epub 2019 Mar 27. PMID: 30925455.

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26.  Shep D, Khanwelkar C, Gade P, Karad S. Efficacy and safety of combination of curcuminoid complex and diclofenac versus diclofenac in knee osteoarthritis: A randomized trial. Medicine (Baltimore). 2020;99(16):e19723. doi:10.1097/MD.0000000000019723.

27.  Bulboacă AE, Bolboacă SD, Stănescu IC, Sfrângeu CA, Bulboacă AC. Preemptive Analgesic and Antioxidative Effect of Curcumin for Experimental Migraine. Biomed Res Int. 2017;2017:4754701. doi:10.1155/2017/4754701.

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29.  Siddiqui MZ. Boswellia serrata, a potential antiinflammatory agent: an overview. Indian J Pharm Sci. 2011;73(3):255-261. doi:10.4103/0250-474X.93507

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31.  Eliaz I, Raz A. Pleiotropic Effects of Modified Citrus Pectin. Nutrients. 2019 Nov 1;11(11):2619. doi: 10.3390/nu11112619. PMID: 31683865; PMCID: PMC6893732.

32.  Ma Z, Han Q, Wang X, Ai Z, Zheng Y. Galectin-3 Inhibition Is Associated with Neuropathic Pain Attenuation after Peripheral Nerve Injury. PLoS One. 2016 Feb 12;11(2):e0148792. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0148792. PMID: 26872020; PMCID: PMC4752273.

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