Healthy Living

Natural ingredients to relieve chronic pain

Friday, August 17, 2012

Pain affects more Americans than diabetes, heart disease and cancer combined. While many find relief in the form of a pill, experts show us natural alternatives to help end the aches.

Arthritis, chronic pain, inflammation: Naturopathic Doctor Kirti Kalidas, an integrative medicine specialist, says you can fight pain without prescription or over-the-counter drugs.

"There are plenty of anti-inflammatories out there," said Kalidas.

Willow bark contains salicylic acid. In a study of nearly 200 people with lower back pain, those who received willow bark experienced a significant improvement in pain compared to those who received a placebo. Boil one to two leaves and make a tea when pain sets in.

Another way to end the aches is curcumin, used for hundreds of years. The antioxidant is a component of turmeric, which can be found in curry. A study shows if used regularly, curcumin could change DNA regulation to help kill cancer.

For joint pain, look to the sea. Research published in Nutrition Journal found the red seaweed supplement aquamin reduced osteoarthritis pain in study participants by 20 percent in one month.

For headaches, use capsaicin, the stuff that makes peppers hot.

"It's basically used to get rid of acute pain because it controls the signaling process on the nerves and we use it in the topical fashion," said Kalidas.

A study found migraine patients who applied capsaicin cream inside their nostrils decreased their pain by almost half.

Kalidas says these natural remedies are great short-term solutions for your pain. But if it persists, the root cause should be examined.

If you want to avoid painful needles at the doctor's office, try counting backward from 100 out loud. A Japanese study shows patients who did just that experienced less pain.

DO SUPPLEMENTS REALLY WORK? For people who have less tolerance for the side effects of traditional pain medications, supplements could do the trick. That said, no one should be mixing pain supplements and medications without seeing a doctor first. It could be risky. So make sure your health care provider knows about all the medicines and supplements you use. Also, supplements can get pricey, so traditional NSAIDS are cheap and effective treatment that should also be considered. (Source: WebMD.com)

POTENTIAL SUPPLEMENTS FOR PAIN MANAGEMENT Anti-inflammatory plants and herbs: Because they work in the same way as NSAIDs, these pain supplements do pose some of the same risks, such as bleeding and stomach upset. However, the side effects tend to be less severe. People on blood-thinning drugs check with a doctor before using any of these pain supplements.

Vitamin D: A number of studies have linked low levels of vitamin D with increased levels of chronic pain.

Glucosamine sulfate: There's especially strong evidence that this pain supplement can help relieve osteoarthritis pain in the knee. Glucosamine is often combined with chondroitin, which could have an additional benefit. Glucosamine could not only ease pain, but also slow the progression of osteoarthritis.

Acetyl-L-carnitine: Several studies have found that the nutrient acetyl-L-carnitine can ease nerve pain from diabetes. This pain supplement also seems to regenerate damaged nerves and, over time, restore sensitivity.

Alpha-lipoic acid: Like acetyl-L-carnitine, alpha-lipoic acid seems to help with diabetic neuropathy. It not only reduces pain, but also seems to slow down the progression of the nerve injury. It may also enhance insulin sensitivity and help with nerve damage caused by cancer treatments.

Bromelain: Bromelain can reduce inflammation and pain. Some studies have found it helpful in osteoarthritis and knee pain. There's some uncertainty about how well it gets absorbed in digestion, given that it could be neutralized by stomach acid. More research needs to be done.

Riboflavin (vitamin B2): Could help reduce the frequency of migraines. (Source: WebMD.com)

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