When we think of chronic illnesses, conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer are usually at the top of the list. Chronic pain is rarely, if ever mentioned in this discussion. Statistically though, chronic pain sufferers far outnumber all three of these conditions combined. According to the Institute of Medicine of The National Academies, there are more than 100 million Americans suffering from chronic pain versus diabetes (25.8 million), heart disease (16.3 million) and cancer (11.9 million). This is quite staggering when you think people with chronic pain encompasses almost one-third of all Americans. If these numbers don’t grab your attention then perhaps the amount of money spent on health care and lost productivity for chronic pain will at $635 billion (which equals about $2,000 per person, per year).
What is Chronic Pain?
Chronic pain is defined as pain that lasts longer than several months. The pain can be continuous or random, mild or severe, debilitating or just plain annoying. The most common conditions associated with chronic pain include backaches, headaches (including migraines), fibromyalgia, sinusitis, joint pain and carpal tunnel syndrome. The cause can be from physical trauma/injury, infections, ongoing conditions (cancer, arthritis, infections, neuralgia) and even emotional trauma.
If living with chronic pain isn’t bad enough, chronic pain sufferers usually have other health challenges such as depression, fatigue, sleeplessness, changes in appetite, anxiety and other emotions that contribute to the worsening of their pain. We also know that chronic pain will decrease immune function, allowing for other health challenges to manifest such as cancer, colds/flu and more. Bundling these all together, we can see that people who suffer from chronic pain have a less than desirable quality of life.
With regards to treating chronic pain, I don’t always agree with the modern medicine approach. Modern medicine often treats the symptoms without addressing the root cause of the pain. An example would be someone who suffers from migraines. In most cases, medications such as narcotics, vascular flow regulators, antidepressants, antianxiety, anti-nausea and OTC analgesics are used to either “prevent” or “treat” a person’s symptoms. The harsh reality is that these drugs do not necessarily address the root cause such as stress, food sensitivities, other medication use, hormone imbalances, sleep disturbances, being overweight, caffeine consumption, smoking, chemical exposures, etc., which could be the underlying cause of the migraine. Failing to address the root cause of a migraine will allow it to continue to manifest (or even worsen over time), or become chronic.
My approach to helping those with chronic pain (and all health challenges) begins by looking for the underlying root cause of pain. Following is a list of some of the more common areas for chronic pain and their possible “root” cause:
Fibromyalgia: Acute or chronic trauma to the nervous system. Do you suffer from chronic anxiety or worry, depression; or were you involved in, or did you witness, a horrific event? Arthritis: Was your joint inflammation caused by an injury or was it something that occurred over the years (progressive decline such as; drying out of connective tissue, osteoarthritis or mineral deposits in the joints) or development of an autoimmune condition?
Migraines: Are you stressed, have food sensitivities, hormone imbalances, sleep disturbances, smoke or consume too much caffeine?
Backache: Was the cause from an injury (sports, car accident, etc.)? Is there an emotional link (stress, anxiety or depression)? Or other physiologic condition that impacts your spine or back muscles (bladder or bowel health, pregnancy)?
Sinusitis: Do you have food sensitivities? Do you have an underlying physical issue such as polyps or deviated septum? Do you have issues with stress or anxiety?
The examples above are not the definitive list of “why” you might have chronic pain, but are there to give you an “outside the box” look into why you are suffering. Take lower back problems for example, I often find that there is a link to bowel or bladder issues. No one would think there is a link between either one of those areas because they directly have little to do with your back. Yet more times than not, people with sciatic/ lower back issues often have problems with bowel health (constipation, IBS, diarrhea) or bladder health (chronic UTIs, bladder spasms, pregnancy that impacted the bladder muscle negatively). When we focus on fixing the bowel or bladder health condition, the pain eventually goes away. Modern medicine on the other hand would not take this approach and your condition would continue to worsen because the underlying cause was never “treated.”
Integrating Natural Medicine
The natural medicine approach should be multifaceted. This means that taking supplements should be a part of your regimen, but not the only thing you do. Before I give my recommended supplements for chronic pain, consider adding these strategies to your health program too:
- Get out and socialize
- Join a support group
- Avoid extended use of addictive medications
- Treat underlying anxiety and/or depression
- Pray or meditate
- Explore other modalities such as acupuncture
I have personally suffered with chronic pain for the past two years. The supplements I use and recommend are backed by more than testimonies and anecdotal information, they are also backed by science. Here is a quick list of what I suggest for chronic pain and why:
Perluxan: Perluxan is supercritical extract from hops cones (Humulus lupulus). For years now I have been calling this my “herbalibuprofen” and now there is a pilot study showing it is actually similar in action. Perluxan was found effective in reducing pain-causing biochemical (COX-2) and 1,000 mg of Perluxan was evaluated to have a similar effect as two, 200 mg ibuprofen tablets. Perluxan is also well tolerated, has a good safety profile for those with gastrointestinal side effect concerns. Ibuprofen rips my stomach up and Perluxan does not. Another huge advantage is that while most supplements take weeks or even months to show benefit, Perluxan can start relieving pain within 30 minutes.
Celadrin: I recommend Celadrin to be taken orally and/or applied topically to help with your pain and inflammation concerns. Orally, Celadrin works by decreasing inflammation and by lubricating cell membranes throughout the body. By restoring fluids that cushion bones and joints, it helps promote flexibility and mobility. If you are like me and over the age of 50, you may notice your “joints creak,” which could be due to your connective tissue drying out. Celadrin helps re-hydrate that tissue while also helping the body to decrease any swelling or inflammation. If you suffer from chronic pain, you know there are days or moments when your pain is worse than usual. Celadrin works great topically for these instances. I am also suggesting it to be used 20–30 minutes prior to bedtime. Since Celadrin takes only 20 minutes to begin working, you can help get added pain relief before you go to bed, which may allow you to fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. There are no clinical trials on my last comment about sleep, but the application makes sense and works for me.
Finally, science has shown that people, who suffer from chronic pain and take an active role in their health, versus just sitting back and accepting their fate, have much better outcomes. Continue to seek out solutions to your pain and you are likely to find significant relief and perhaps even eliminate it completely.
David Foreman RPh, is a retired pharmacist, author and radio host of the syndicated show, “The Herbal Pharmacist.” He is well versed on the healing powers of herbs, vitamins and other natural supplements. Foreman is a graduate of the University of South Carolina College of Pharmacy and is author of, “4 Pillars of Health: Heart Disease.” He is a frequent speaker at some of America’s leading universities, medical groups and hospitals on the subject of natural health and healing. His shift from traditional pharmacist to herbal pharmacist was based on his belief that education is the key to understanding that natural health plays a vital role in mainstream medicine; and he has dedicated his entire career to educating consumers about the benefits and power behind natural herbs and supplements (www.herbalpharmacist.com). Follow him on Twitter: @Herbalrph or facebook.com/TheHerbalPharmacist.