By: Joe Fleming, co-founder of Vive Health
For many of us, pain is a part of everyday life, whether due to a fitness injury like shin splints, or a chronic condition like arthritis. Because we all live such busy lives, we understandably want the pain to go away as quickly as possible and there are plenty of opioid painkillers that will do just that.
Unfortunately, these pills often come at a great price... and not just in terms of money. They are extremely addictive. It is easy to get hooked and almost impossible to quit. Even worse, opioids are often gateway drugs to heroin or something even worse. At some point, the cost simply becomes too high.
The good news is that there are a number of natural remedies that can either eliminate pain altogether, when coupled with time and some other things, or at least greatly reduce our pain pill consumption.
Most people know arthritis is chronic, degenerative, and incurable. In other words, the underlying condition is always there, usually gets worse, and never gets better. As a result, many people think that prescription painkillers are the only way to get through the day. However, in many cases, that’s simply not true.
People successfully dealt with arthritis pain long before prescription painkillers came along, and what worked then will work today. Some ideas include:
Weight Loss: Obesity worsens arthritis in the ankles, knees, and other joints in the lower extremities, simply because of the extra pressure and stress. Even just ten pounds should make a noticeable difference.
Exercise: Somewhat similarly, exercise increases flexibility and muscle mass, thus reducing discomfort. Targeted exercise usually improves arthritis not only in the legs, but in other parts of the body as well.
Yoga: In addition to physical exercise, yoga provides a few minutes of quiet meditation. There is considerable evidence that meditation decreases pain, if for no other reason than you are thinking about something else for a period of time.
Dietary Supplements: Turmeric, a common Indian spice, reduces joint inflammation. Other proven supplements include S-adenosylmethionine (SAM-e), fish oil and Gamma Linolenic Acid (GLA).
Depending on the individual, these techniques may make a night and day difference or they may not have any effect at all. However, nearly everyone sees enough improvement to either reduce the use of prescription pain pills or replace them with analgesics, like Motrin.
While back pain is usually curable, that cure may entail spinal fusion surgery or some other radical procedure. So, for many people, the goal is pain management, as it is with arthritis sufferers.
Exercise is usually the best way to address back pain, and there are a number of activities and stretches that may work well. Alternating hot and cold therapy, with a heat pad and ice pack, is also effective in many cases. Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) has also shown to help reduce low back pain.
These injuries are usually quite painful but easily curable. In the instance of fitness injury, pain-masking opioids may be an even worse idea than normal, because people might feel better before they actually are and re-injure themselves. The RICE method is usually a great approach immediately after a fitness injury.
Rest: Talk to a doctor or trainer about how long you need to walk on crutches, wear a boot, or otherwise avoid using the muscle.
Ice: Twenty minutes of cold therapy not only reduces swelling, but also reduces discomfort.
Compression: An ACE Bandage will do in a pinch to decrease inflammation, but a specially-designed wrap, like a calf shin support, will usually help people get better faster.
Elevation: Keep the injured muscle above your heart.
About halfway through the recovery process for a fitness-related injury, cross-training is probably okay, to stay fit and help ease injury-related depression. But be sure you talk to a doctor or therapist first.
The bottom line is that there are options other than addictive painkillers to decrease the discomfort associated with many everyday illnesses and injuries.
(1) A. Cassoobhoy. (December 15, 2015). What is low back pain? WebMD. Retrieved from http://www.webmd.com/back-pain/ss/slideshow-low-back-pain-overview