Millions of Americans experience chronic pain. If you do, you know it can interfere with work, exercise, relationships, sleep — even your self-esteem and happiness. Chronic pain is a major cause of depression, anxiety, and even job loss.
As a physician, my goal is to help alleviate suffering. Sometimes pharmaceuticals are necessary (and even the best option) for pain relief. Unfortunately, though, many common pain medications, when taken regularly, can wreak havoc in your body.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen can cause Leaky Gut Syndrome (LGS), gastritis, and even severe stomach ulcers requiring surgery. Narcotics, which are on the rise in epidemic proportions, are responsible for a range of medical problems ranging from gut-damaging constipation to death. In fact, every day in the United States 105 people die from accidental overdoses of properly prescribed pain medications.
What most people are never told by their doctor is that some pain medications can actually even make pain worse. Medication Overuse Headache (MOH) is an actual medical condition whereby headaches become more frequent and severe due to regular use of medications for headache. Over-the-counter drugs such as Tylenol can cause MOH.
And for at least 10% of people taking them, these drugs actually make pain substantially worse! Most think the pain is getting worse because they aren’t taking enough of the medication, so they take more. This can create a dangerous setup for overdose.
Part of my job in relieving suffering is to help people find safe alternatives to treating pain, so that they are not taking medications that can also cause suffering.
Get to the Root of the Problem
I am not a "pain doctor." However, in my practice at the UltraWellness Center, I treat many people with chronic diseases who experience pain as a component — for example, autoimmune conditions affecting the joints, gut problems causing digestive pain, fibromyalgia, pelvic and menstrual pain, and chronic headaches and migraines.
Natural supplements can play a tremendous role in alleviating the symptoms of chronic pain. Herbs such as corydalis, Jamaican dogwood, and cramp bark when taken internally can be helpful for pain flares. Capsaicin from hot peppers, and essential oils of wintergreen, peppermint, and lavender — all used topically — alleviate the discomforts of painful joints and headaches.
However, as with all conditions, it's essential to treat the root causes, not just the symptoms. In my experience, both the root causes and the resulting pain can be reversed in many cases. Common root causes that lead to chronic pain or make it worse include:
- Poor sleep
- Structural problems
Here are 7 steps to relieve your chronic pain:
1. Get to the root cause of your inflammation using functional medicine.
Find a functional medicine doctor near you or come see me.
2. Consider going off pain medications.
Talk with your doctor about stopping the regular use of pain medications that may actually be doing more harm than good — and may even be making your pain worse!
3. Reduce inflammation from your diet.
Learn which foods are best for you with an elimination diet. Start with at least no gluten or dairy for six weeks.
4. Use nutrients and herbs on a daily basis to reduce pain and inflammation.
including bromelain, fish oil, quercitin, curcumin, boswellia, licorice (use “DGL” if you have high blood pressure), devil’s claw, ginger, and Sam-E. There are many products on the market that include a combination of these ingredients. Ask in the supplement section of your local major natural foods store for help.
5. Improve your sleep.
Aim to get better quality and quantity of zzzzs. This is critical to healing, reducing inflammation, and also improves mood.
6. Get bodywork for structural issues.
These may have resulted from past physical injuries or even emotional traumas that have caused you to hold pain and tension in your body. I commonly recommend massage, physical therapy, craniosacral, and myofascial work to my patients. Acupuncture can also be helpful.
7. Decrease stress with daily mindfulness practices and take an UltraBath.
It's simple. To bathwater as hot as you can tolerate, add the following:
- 2 cups of Epsom salts
- 1 cup of baking soda
- 10 drops of lavender oil
Soak for 20 minutes before bed each night to relieve stress and musculoskeletal pain, and improve your body’s detoxification abilities.
Keep in mind, even if your pain is due to a condition that can’t be completely fixed (for example: you have an old injury that causes chronic discomfort), addressing all of the above factors can improve your pain tolerance, and ignoring these areas can make your pain worse!
Getting to the root causes of health problems generally not only improves your symptoms, but can give you a whole new lease on total health!
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