Safe and effective alternatives to medication
If you find yourself reaching for pain medications more than a few times a year, there are some things you should know. Some of it is good and some of it not so good. Making informed decisions about your health can absolutely be the difference between life and death.
Everyday more than 30 million people take over-the-counter and prescription anti-inflammatory medications, called NSAIDs (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs). And, nearly 1 in 5 NSAID users exceed the recommended daily limit. Examples of these medications include aspirin, Motrin, Advil, Naprosyn, Aleve, and Celebrex. NSAIDs are frequently the first approach used to relieve pain and reduce inflammation, and are commonly used to treat neck pain, back pain, headaches, and sciatica.
As a chiropractor, I do not prescribe medications, but I do understand the value in using these types of drugs. They are generally inexpensive, relatively effective, and are extremely convenient. Unfortunately, they also have several draw backs.
NSAIDs block a specific pathway of the inflammatory process, but do not fix the underlying cause of the inflammation.
For short term use, these medications “cool off” the inflammation and relieve the symptoms while your body has time to heal. Once your body heals and the underlying cause of the inflammation has been fixed, the symptoms resolve. Unfortunately, there are times when your body is unable to overcome the problem (as with many of the patients that seek my care). In these cases, either the medication provides no relief, or the pain and inflammation return once the drug wears off. For these instances, the medication simply acts to mask the problem.
NSAIDs are NOT recommended for long term use.
According to the Cleveland Clinic’s website, “Don’t use an over-the-counter NSAID continuously for more than three days for fever, and 10 days for pain, unless your medical doctor says it’s okay. Over-the-counter NSAIDs work well in relieving pain, but they’re meant for short-term use. If your doctor clears you to take NSAIDs for a long period of time, you and your doctor should watch for harmful side effects. If you notice bad side effects your treatment may need to be changed.”
ALL of these medications carry the risk of very serious side effects.
I have found that most people don’t know this information. In fact, many times people will take an NSAID for a month or longer without ever knowing the possible consequences.
The following is an excerpt from the article, Quantifying the Impact of NSAID-Associated Adverse Events in the American Journal of Managed Care:
“The cost of treating acute and chronic pain conditions is well documented. What is less well understood is the price tag attached to the side effects associated with their treatment. Some estimates suggest that each year more than 100,000 patients are hospitalized for NSAID-related GI complications alone, with direct costs ranging from $1800 to $8500 per patient per hospitalization. Moreover, it has been reported that 16,500 persons die annually from these complications. In the elderly, the medical costs of adverse GI events associated with NSAID use likely exceed $4 billion per year.
NSAID use is also associated with costly adverse events impacting the cardio-vascular (heart) and renal (kidney) systems. For example, NSAID use has been associated with increased risk for hospitalization due to heart attack as well as for heart failure. According to recent data from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the average hospitalizations for acute heart attack and congestive heart failure cost $18,500 and $10,500, respectively. Likewise, acute renal failure, which is also associated with NSAID use, can ultimately lead to expensive dialysis treatment.”
Natural plant and animal derived compounds may provide a safe and effective alternative to anti-inflammatory medications.
For thousands of years, medicinal plants and spices have served as the cornerstone for treating ill health. Their natural compounds have stood the test of time, and it is only recently that we have moved towards man-made drugs as the foundation of our healthcare system. Many of these new medicines save millions of lives or play an essential role in managing devastating diseases. Unfortunately, many others provide some help, but at a cost that may not be worth the risk. Frequently, Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs may fall into this second category.
Whether NSAIDs are not an option, or you would simply prefer a more natural approach to your health, below is a list of possible alternatives to these medications.
Dr. Hagman’s top 7 natural anti-inflammatory supplements
Omega 3 Essential Fatty Acids (Fish Oils)
Boswellia serrata (Frankincense)
Notable mention: CBD, Pycnogenol, Cat’s claw, White willow bark
There is plenty of scientific evidence showing the safety and effectiveness of these compounds. Used appropriately, they can help people with many different health conditions. In future articles, I will provide more in-depth information on the background and proper use of each of these substances.
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Wishing you good health.