Today is one of your really bad days. You are having crippling neck pain. The pain is preventing you from doing what you must that day. You need to stop the pain, and you want it to stop RIGHT NOW. So, what do you do? If you are like millions of people around the world, you pop a pill or two. What happens next? Most likely, the pain stops after a few minutes and you go about your business. Is the problem solved? Absolutely not.
Drugs are supposed to do for the body what it can’t do for itself. Usually, if your body is healthy, it can heal itself with little assistance. Medical intervention may have improved our overall level of health care, but it comes at a price.
Every time you take a drug, it has benefits and side effects. Medication interferes with the body’s natural healing processes. There is a vast array of manufactured medicines, herbs and other compounds that target musculoskeletal dysfunction. Some are swallowed while others are placed under the tongue. There are also patches and injections. Regardless of how the drugs are delivered, they generally fall into one of three categories: anti-inflammatories, muscle relaxants and analgesics.
Although drugs are highly effective at relieving pain, their effects are only temporary. What do you do when the pain returns? Take more drugs. Thus, a cycle of chronic drug use begins. To date, there are no magic pills or potions that actually cure musculoskeletal pain. However, there are natural remedies that can enhance muscle rejuvenation, bone production and cartilage regeneration. Let’s take a look at some of the common drugs and herbs used:
Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDS)
Many NSAIDS are available over the counter, such as aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn). Stronger NSAIDS including Celebrex require a doctor’s prescription. They are inexpensive and get the job done fast. So what harm is there in getting a little relief? Plenty, as it turns out. NSAIDS stop pain by blocking pro-inflammatory prostaglandins, which are hormones that cause inflammation. Because inflammation causes pain, the lack of prostaglandins reduces pain. But is this a good thing? Inflammation is the body’s normal response from the immune system to an injury. It causes more blood to flow to the injury and allows healing to begin. The usual result is swelling which is a part of the normal healing process and, unfortunately, usually causes pain. By shutting down this normal healing process, the NSAIDS reduce pain at the cost of the injury not healing properly. So, instead of the pain disappearing after several days of natural healing, it lingers much longer. This leads to the patient taking more drugs and prolonging the healing process further. This makes it more likely that the person will become dependent on painkillers
NSAIDS can have serious side effects, some of which can cause death. They often block enzymes needed to generate the mucus that lines and protects the stomach. This often results in bleeding in the stomach, ulcers and sometimes unstoppable hemorrhaging if the ulcer is near an artery. NSAIDS are also known to increase the risks of a heart attack.
Non-narcotic Analgesics (Acetaminophen)
Acetaminophen (Tylenol) has few side effects and contains no narcotics. This reduces it’s pain killing effectiveness but reduces the risks as well. It does not have any anti-inflammatory effects and does not interfere with prostaglandin production. The result is that while Acetaminophen does not interfere with the natural healing process, it also does not reduce inflammation which is closely tied with pain. It is purely analgesic: it works by reducing neural impulses along the central nervous system pathway which blocks the perception of pain in the brain.
Side effects of acetaminophen include liver damage, lowered blood sugar levels and possibly a yellowing of the skin or the whites of the eyes. It is fairly easy to go from a therapeutic dose (about 3 grams per day) to an overdose (as little as an extra gram per day) depending on one’s body tolerance to the drug.
NARCOTIC ANALGESICS: OPIATES
Opiates fall into two classes: short acting (Darvon, Percodan, Vicodin) which usually last three to four hours and long acting (Methadone, Oxycontin) which can last up to twelve hours. They are available by prescription only.
Nothing stops pain like narcotics. They are able to relieve much suffering in a world full of disease-related pain such as with cancer. Because of their potency, they should be reserved for cases of extreme pain where the pain serves no purpose, like in terminal cancer patients. Physicians often prescribe opioids for chronic neck pain (as in my case) because most are ill-trained in pain management and want an easy fix. That way, they can get on to their next patient. They are a synthetic version of the poppy plant, and work by inhibiting pain impulses from the site of the pain to the brain.
Problems with opioids include tolerance, which can start in as little as two weeks after initial use. With continued use, the body adapts to to the drug’s presence and physical dependency occurs. A very disturbing side effects of narcotics is physical or mental dependency. These drugs are extremely over-prescribed. In fact, each year, enough prescriptions for narcotics are written in the United States to drug every man, woman and child for an entire month!
NATURAL REMEDIES FOR PAIN
When you pop a pill, most people expect relief within a few minutes and that usually is the case. The trade-off with pharmaceuticals are the side effects, which we examined above. Herbal pain remedies do not offer a “quick fix” for the pain, usually taking from two to six weeks to reach their full effect. That is their downfall. The upside is that there are few, if any, side effects and herbal remedies can be taken for long periods of time… even years.
Did you know That…
Approximately 130,000 people die from prescription drugs each year while there are no documented cases of death from herbal remedies as recently as 2015 according to Orthomolecular News.
Let’s take a look at some of the better herbal pain remedies:
- Iodine: it is estimated that 90 percent of the population is iodine deficient. This results in hypothyroidism (reduced thyroid function) which leads to autoimmune conditions like arthritis.
- Vitamin D3: This is the natural and most effective form. Vitamin D2 is a synthetic version and is much less effective. Vitamin D3 is a potent anti-inflammatory and also acts like a hormone in the body. It is also important for bone health, blood pressure control, fighting cancer and many, many other bodily functions. At least 50% of the population is deficient in D3.
- Magnesium: another mineral that is responsible for over 300 enzyme processes in the body. It is also effective to relax tense muscles and reduce anxiety. This mineral is sorely lacking in the diet and at least 40% of the population is deficient.
- Your gut bacteria (yes!). Many people eat the Standard American Diet (SAD) which is full of processed foods. This actually kills the good bacteria in your gut (medications like ibuprofen do the same thing) and allows bad bacterial strains to grow. This condition is known as dysbiosis. The gut bacteria are responsible for proper digestion of food and also produce Serotonin, which is a “feel good” hormone. Without proper gut bacteria, your body has an exaggerated pain response. Probiotics, yogurt, kefir and apple cider vinegar all help restore proper gut health.
- Curcumin: known as “nature’s ibuprofen”. It is a powerful anti-inflammatory that can start to reduce pain in as little as one hour. It is poorly absorbed on its’ own. I recommend to take it with a meal containing olive or coconut oil and fresh ground black pepper. This will increase the absorption up to twenty times.
- Andrographis Paniculata: This herb acts as a Cox-2 inhibitor, which is similar to Celebrex (discussed above). It does take several weeks to build up in one’s system and start producing analgesic effects. However, there is no stomach irritation and very few, if any, side effects.
Many other herbs, minerals and vitamins have demonstrated effectiveness in reducing neck pain and increasing mobility. When used with a combination of stretching, proper diet and massage it is often possible to greatly improve or even cure the most stubborn cases of neck pain.
The best piece of advice I can give is this: never, ever give up hope of managing your neck pain! If your doctor hands you a prescription at each appointment, pats you on the back and has you coming back every month for more drugs, I offer you a different solution that worked wonders for me. For more information, click on stopneckpain.wpengine.com.
PS: I have written a FREE “Survival Manual for Chronic Neck Pain” with many suggestions, tips and tricks to help you out. All you have to do is click here.