Pain is Complicated
After I posted the article Save Your Liver – Just Say No to this Drug, which is about the dangers of the drug Tylenol (acetaminophen), I received a number of comments and emails asking for advice about natural alternatives for treating pain.
Short-term or Acute Pain
There’s a big difference between short-term or acute pain, and long-term or chronic pain. If you have short-term pain because you got hit on the head by a board, or sprained your ankle, or had one-too-many the night before, or tried to lift the couch by yourself, or wrenched your knee in yoga class, take an aspirin or ibuprofen or acetaminophen and get on with it. (If you had one-too-many don’t take acetaminophen, your liver has already been abused.) You may also want to apply ice to the affected part for quicker relief and healing. Pain drugs aren’t, for the most part, dangerous in the short term.
Long-term or Chronic Pain
Chronic pain, like relationships and calculus, is complicated. How we experience and cope with pain is unique to each of us. Let’s take headaches for example, which are the single biggest reason that we reach for an over-the-counter painkiller. There are literally dozens of possible underlying causes of a headache, from allergies and sinus infections to eye strain and stress, and—you guessed it—side effects of prescription drugs. The best long-term way to cure chronic headaches, and almost any chronic pain, is to find the underlying cause. I’m not aware of one single drug, prescription or over-the-counter, that doesn’t have serious side effects when used long term. Not one. So it’s worth it to devote attention and energy to finding underlying causes for chronic pain.
Headache Causes and Remedies
Chronic Back Pain
If you have chronic back pain, the book Healing Back Pain by John E. Sarno M.D. is required reading. I’m sure that I’ve gifted at least a few dozen people with this book since it was published in 1991. Sarno was an orthopedic surgeon who specialized in spine surgery, but eventually he realized that what he was seeing on x-rays had little or nothing to do with people’s pain levels and he began to delve into the psycho-emotional aspects of back pain. In short, many of us tend to store our emotional pain in our lower back muscles, which become tight, which blocks the flow of blood, which causes pain. Sarno now practices MindBody medicine and is an expert on the subject of chronic pain.
If you have osteoarthritis, the biggest secret to pain relief is to keep moving. So simple and so true. Stretching and walking are essential. Before getting out of bed in the morning, or getting up out of a chair, stretch a little. You don’t need to know yoga to stretch; just do what feels good, gently. Keeping inflammation down is also important, and if you have a flare-up it’s important to take an anti-inflammatory such as aspirin, ibuprofen or naproxen right away. You can also use some over-the-counter cortisol cream for quick relief. When the flare-up pain has subsided, start moving and try to figure out what caused the flare-up.
Inflammation Causes and Remedies
5 Ways to Lower C-reactive Protein (a marker of inflammation)
Rheumatoid arthritis can often be dramatically helped by identifying food sensitivities with an elimination diet and then avoiding the offending foods. You can find instructions on this as well as many, many other natural remedies in Prescription Alternatives.
More Information — Other Sources of Pain, Remedies and Causes