The opioid and prescription drug crisis is rising, but what are the alternatives?
It’s no secret that opioid and prescription drug addiction is a huge problem in America. The United States makes up 5% or the world’s population and consumes almost 80% of the world’s opioid supply. Consequently, there has been a growing epidemic of deaths related to opioid overdoses. A recent study showed that nearly half of all opioid deaths in America are related to prescription medications. Of course, this is not to say that pain medication is not necessary. Acute hospitalizations, trauma, surgeries, child birth and end of life care are all appropriate times for these types of medications. For a majority of the world, this is when they are used.
With all of the news about the dangers of prescription drugs and the litany of side-effects, people are looking for alternatives. There are several naturally occurring herbs and minerals that are just as, or even more effective than prescription drugs. Natural pain relievers are plentiful all over the world. They are becoming more accessible for consumers in the form of essential oils, herbs and mineral supplements. Beyond using natural supplements, it is important to remember that physical therapy and exercise is one of the best ways to relieve pain.
Valerian root is becoming more popular in the U.S. It is native to Europe but is grown freely in most of the world. It has been used to treat everything from nervousness to epilepsy. In addition to its calming properties, valerian root has been shown to be affective as a mild muscle relaxer and reducer of painful muscle spasms. The active compound in valerian root affects the same neurotransmitters as benzodiazepines (Valium). This makes valerian root a great option for treating many conditions such as nerve and rheumatic pain.
Bromelain is found naturally in the stems of pineapple. It can relieve pain in several ways. Due to its powerful anti-inflammatory affects, it can be helpful in relieving acute and chronic joint pain caused by arthritis. This powerful enzyme has also been shown to speed up recovery following surgery. Because bromelain is an enzyme that specifically digests proteins, it is a great supplement for digestive disorders such as constipation, Chrohn’s Disease, and ulcerative colitis.
Bromelain can be taken in the form of capsules or in its natural state by juicing the core of the pineapple and mixing it with fresh vegetables. The typical dosage is 500 mg daily, however this will vary depending on what you are taking it for.
Magnesium is an essential dietary mineral found in nuts, legumes, leafy green vegetables and whole grains. Most Americans are deficient in this vital mineral. In fact, several studies on back pain, fibromyalgia and migraine have looked at magnesium deficiency as a cause. Magnesium has been found to inhibit Substance-P, which is an inflammatory chemical in the body associated with pain. It has been widely used to help with chronic pain disorders and fibromyalgia. Magnesium taken as a supplement or used as a topical oil is an excellent natural alternative to prescription medication.
Ginger has been used for centuries to improve health. It is a strong anti-oxidant that links to free radicals responsible for pain and inflammation. Ginger has been used for general pain relief, decreasing sore muscles and aiding in soothing digestion. This is an excellent way to deal with arthritis pain and headaches.
Borage Seed Oil
Borage Seed Oil is a popular natural pain reliever due to its high concentration of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA). GLA is an omega-6 fatty that the body does not produce on its own. GLA produces hormones that are essential in reducing pain and inflammation ranging from mild muscle and joint soreness to rheumatoid arthritis and chronic fatigue.
Boswellia is an Indian herb that is available as a supplement or topical cream. Boswellic acid has been found to be more potent and less toxic than NSAIDs such as Advil and Ibuprofen. As a result, boswellia can be taken for long periods of time without the potential side-effects of stomach ulceration that can occur with NSAIDs. This herb (also known as Frankincense in its resin form) is good for combating chronic inflammation that occur with arthritic conditions.
Turmeric is probably one of the best known natural pain relievers that is food based. It is part of the ginger family and is made up of a strong anti-inflammatory component called curcumin. Turmeric can be taken in capsule form, but is a common ingredient in Asian dishes and teas allowing for easy consumption. It has been shown to be helpful in reducing arthritic pain and reducing morning joint stiffness.
Better known as MSM, this naturally occurring sulfur compound is a powerful anti-inflammatory and pain reliever. It is called the “miracle supplement” because of all the positive effects it has on pain, inflammation, immunity and energy levels. MSM is commonly used topically, but can also be taken by mouth.
For joint pain, it normalizes cellular activity, which lower inflammatory responses that cause pain and swelling. It works well as a digestive aide by rebuilding the stomach lining and lowering the inflammatory effects of certain foods. MSM helps repair fibrous muscle tissue that are broken down during activity or exercise, thus decreasing pain, soreness and inflammation of the muscle. It also helps to reduce fatigue felt after stressful events or exercise, and can help restore energy and an upbeat mood.
For chocolate lovers out there, dark chocolate (specifically 85% cacao) decreases inflammation molecules before they start. It’s almost like a better tasting Advil. It has also been shown to improve blood circulation, help prevent arterial blockages and raise good cholesterol levels. Of course, it should be taken in moderation. It is recommended that you have 1.5-3.0 ounces a day, but you should always check nutritional labels before consuming.
Supplements and herbs are helpful, but never forget about the benefit of exercises. Walking, yoga, Tai Chi, resistance training and martial arts are great ways to keep your joints moving, maintain flexibility and keep your muscles strong. A good, consistent exercise program will help you keep pain levels down, maintain your level of function and keep your energy levels high.
Seeking treatment from a Physical Therapist may be one of the most important resources for natural pain relief. Physical Therapists are experts in pain relief and don’t require dangerous drugs, injections or surgical interventions. Their knowledge of human anatomy and musculoskeletal movements allows them to determine the reason you are having pain and, in turn, create a treatment program to decrease pain, increase strength and improve mobility. If you are having pain and want to get better rather than just mask your symptoms with drugs, contact a physical therapist in your area to get an evaluation.
With opioid and prescription drug abuse reaching epidemic levels in our country, it is time to make changes. There are so many alternatives that are safe and natural. Alternatives that can get rid of your pain and allow you to get back to being active. Before taking another prescription drug, do yourself a favor and consider a more natural treatment.