Chronic pain can have an incredibly detrimental effect on not only your day to day life, but also your mental health. If you know my full story, you know due to a congenital hip disorder, I know plenty about long-term chronic pain. Thankfully my hip (along with most of the pain) was corrected through surgery, but the road to recovery was NOT an easy one. The chronic pain affected every single area of my life and led me down a deep, dark hole that was incredibly difficult to climb out of.
Following a 7-hour surgery (a derotational femoral osteotamy), where my femur was literally broken in half, I was in excruciating pain. I wasn’t prepared at all for the post-operative pain, which might have been part of why I had such a difficult time dealing with it. Prior to the surgery I was in constant pain no matter what I did—I couldn’t find a single comfortable position, even sitting and lying down was terribly painful. For some (ridiculous) reason I believed I would be pain-free after the surgery. I wasn’t prepared for the pain to be magnified 30 fold. Pain is both a sensory and an emotional experience that is felt differently by everybody, and some people experience pain more intensely than others. I believe I fit that category (as a side note, my dad is extremely sensitive to pain like me, but my mom is not.)
Following my surgery I was on heavy dose narcotics for my week long stay at the hospital. After being discharged I was sent to a pain management doctor while I underwent an arduous 6-month recovery process. As grateful as I was for anything that could reduce the pain, my pain management doctor had just one thing to offer: a less powerful narcotic prescription. Unfortunately there is tremendous stigma to pain management, but the reality is if you are suffering with pain it is essential to get it under control. I don’t have anything but sympathy for the people who have chronic pain and take narcotics for pain management, because I know how debilitating pain can be. Having said that, from my own experience I now also have tremendous understanding for the risks and side benefits associated with narcotics (and even over the counter pain relievers) and I now know there are safe natural pain relievers (that really work!) that can be taken instead.
The Importance of (Safe) Pain Management
One of the biggest complications associated with long term pain is how it negatively impacts almost all areas of the brain, including mood, concentration, motivation, interest in life, etc. It is imperative to control the pain in order to maintain healthy brain function. My hip ordeal taught me a great deal about about pain management, from both a prescription medicine standpoint and a natural standpoint and I will just say this, I SO wish I had known how powerful natural pain relievers can be prior to my surgery. It is beyond the scope of this blog post to go into great detail, but I will just say that narcotics have serious side effects and, had I known about ALL of the alternative natural pain relievers (listed below) I believe I would have been able to get off the narcotics once I was discharged from the hospital. The combination of natural pain relievers can potentially be so powerful that I might have been able to avoid all post-operative prescription medication.
What About Over-the-Counter Pain Relievers?
If you are wondering about over-the-counter pain relievers, such as Advil or Tylenol, those too come with very serious side effects. Approximately 23 percent of American adults (about 52 million people) use a medicine containing acetaminophen each week. It’s the most common drug ingredient in the United States, found in more than six hundred medications. “Just take a Tylenol” is the American way. And yet if you were to add up the injuries and deaths linked to acetaminophen it would result in a total of a little over 110,000 incidents annually.
Over-the-Counter Pain Relievers Can Deplete Your Body’s Natural Antioxidants
The toxicity of Tylenol likely stems from its depletion of glutathione, the body’s most vital antioxidant. Glutathione may well be the most important molecule you need to stay healthy and prevent disease. It’s key for preventing premature aging, cancer, heart disease, dementia, and a number of other chronic diseases. It’s also essential for treating everything from autism to Alzheimer’s disease to multiple sclerosis and much more. If you know my story, you know I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1998 but I didn’t learn about glutathione until 2005.
Now a famous and bestselling author, I went to see my neurologist, Dr. David Perlmutter in his Naples office thirteen years ago when I was returning from my first book tour and feeling incredibly drained. We were sure that it was MS-related fatigue. Dr. Perlmutter gave me an intravenous glutathione injection right there in his office that made me feel like a completely new person in less than half an hour. People who have neurological conditions, like I do, need to be VERY CAREFUL with over the counter pain medications that deplete glutathione. To see how powerful glutathione is, just watch this video below of Dr. Perlmutter with a patient who has Parkinson’s disease and notice the difference before and after his glutathione injection. Watching this, and knowing that many over-the-counter pain relievers deplete glutathione should make you think twice next time someone suggests you “Just take a Tylenol” for pain.
6 Natural Pain Relievers (that REALLY work!)
Thankfully nature has supplied a number of highly effective natural pain relievers. Whether you currently have pain or simply want to stock a natural medicine cabinet, these are the natural pain remedies listed below that really work. Some are more powerful than others, and the ones highlighted in red are the ones I take every day because they are highly anti-inflammatory and also have numerous health benefits. Keep in mind, if you are in serious pain, such as chronic pain or post-operative pain, you will most likely need a combination of natural pain relievers. But I believe that with the right combination you can avoid narcotics. And you can definitely avoid the dangerous over-the-counter pain relievers using natural pain remedies.
- EPA & DHA (from fish oil) (these omega-3 fats are one of the most powerful anti-inflammatory substances you can take without a prescription. You want to look for superior quality pharmaceutical-grade fish oil and make sure you are getting enough–2000 to 4000 mg is about right for pain. Nordic Naturals is a great brand)
- Turmeric (if you have tried turmeric without good results chances are you either did not get a high enough dose or it wasn’t absorbed properly. I talk more about the highly absorbable brand I take, Amare Relief+, below—this is the one we are featuring for the GIVEAWAY contest too, by the way!)
- Boswellia (a large branching tree native to India, Northern Africa and the Middle East, boswellia has been shown in clinical trials to have an anti-inflammatory action similar to that of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), minus the nasty side effects. I talk more about boswellia below as it is one of the active ingredients in the Amare Relief+supplement that I take daily.)
- Kratom (this one has been very controversial lately and the FDA has even tried to ban it, but it is one of the very best natural pain killers that exist. Kratom also has a number of side “benefits”—including being an anti-inflammatory and anti-depressant. Related to the coffee plant, the controversy with kratom is that it is potentially addictive. One day I will do a bigger blog post on this, but for now I will just say that in my personal experience kratom was incredibly helpful at alleviating pain and it’s what enabled me to get off the prescription narcotics without withdrawal. During the time I used kratom I rotated the strains daily–using red, white and green strains—and when it was time to stop I was able to just lower the dose and ease off. I know all about the negative stories circulating online about kratom addiction, but in my personal experience and after talking to MANY people who have used kratom for chronic pain, I would not hesitate to use it again as a natural alternative to narcotics. I would not suggest taking kratom daily unless you have pain, but if you have serious pain, this is one to have in your natural medicine cabinet. It is far safer than narcotics.)
- CBD oil (derived from the hemp plant, a member of the cannabis family along with marijuana, CBD oil is a NON-PSYCHOACTIVE cannabinoid. Unlike marijuana, CBD oil DOES NOT cause a euphoria or “high”. Instead, it influences the body to use its own endocannabinoids more effectively. CBD is highly effective for pain management. It stops the body from absorbing anandamide, one compound associated with regulating pain, and also helps lower inflammation in both the brain and nervous system, which affects how people experience pain. CBD oil has a number of additional benefits beyond the scope of this blog post, but I have recently started taking it daily as part of my overall multiple sclerosis natural treatment regimen. The chemicals in CBD have been shown to help protect the nervous system by reducing inflammation
- Medical Marijuana (Like kratom, I realize this is another highly controversial substance. I didn’t know very much about it until recently when my 91-year old dad hurt his back pretty bad. When he went to the doctor he was given a narcotic prescription for Oxycodone and told to come back in a month. The LAST thing we wanted to get him started on was narcotics, but the pain was so bad he could not sleep or function well. My husband is a surgeon and around the time my dad hurt his back a doctor who was licensed to prescribe medical marijuana went to his office to introduce herself and explain the potential pain management benefits of medical marijuana for my husbands patients. After considerable research we suggested my dad give the medical marijuana a try. Long story short, he started on a “non-euphoric” medical marijuana in a ratio of 1:1 CBD/ THC oil that, along with EPA/ DHA, the turmeric/ boswellia supplement (Amare Relief) has eliminated the pain and kept him off narcotics and over the counter pain relievers. Not only has dad not been “stoned” on his CBD/ THC oil, his cognitive function is as sharp as ever. Even his mood has improved. It’s beyond the scope of this blog post to go into any more detail about medical marijuana here, but if I had serious or chronic pain I would definitely look into this. Contrary to what most of us have been brought up to believe, marijuana actually has neuroprotective benefits, which is one of the reasons it is approved for the management of neurological conditions like multiple sclerosis. The chemicals in marijuana have even been shown to help protect brain cells from Alzheimers and there is considerable research showing cannabis can actually help people who suffer from strokes and traumatic brain injury (TBI) recover faster. Trust me, this is all BRAND NEW information to me and not at all what I had believed about medical marijuana. I remember when our first book came out we were on the Montel Williams Show to promote the book and he announced on air that he used marijuana for the management of his own multiple sclerosis. I remember thinking that maybe if I needed it I would one day look into using it myself for controlling symptoms, but I never in a million years thought marijuanas could actually protect your brain until hearing so from my dad’s doctor and starting to do my own research just recently. It is important to note there are MANY different strains of marijuana and the ratio of CBD to THC directly impacts whether or not you will get “high” —you can still reap benefits of medical marijuana without getting “high”, but I would NOT advice buying it off the street because you have no idea what you are getting. Different ratios of CBD to THC work for different conditions, so if you have chronic pain and are interested in going this route you really need to talk to a doctor who specializes in it. To sum it up, I will just say this, if it were a question of managing serious chronic (or short term) pain with narcotics verse medical marijuana, I would not hesitate to use the medical marijuana knowing what I now know. The stigma associated with medical marijuana is due to people who are uniformed and sadly, spreading fear about the use of this natural pain remedy can be very deleterious to the people who are suffering and need it most.
***It doesn’t fit in with the content of this blog post, but one other thing I would absolutely look into for chronic pain management is meditation. I only recently learned how to meditate, but I SO wish I known how to do it when trying to manage my hip pain. Meditation can be an extremely powerful pain management tool.***
As for me, if you knew the kind of pain I was in prior to the surgery (not to mention after!) along with the severity of the surgery, which involved breaking my leg in half and rotating the femoral head in my hip socket into the “normal” position, it is a miracle that I am able to run, dance…and even leap. I was told by my surgeon that after the surgery I would definitely be able to sit without pain and probably walk pain free too—I didn’t dare ask if I would ever run, dance or leap again. The photo of me above was taken several weeks ago on a family vacation, I admit I was not leaping 100% pain free, BUT the fact I can even do it is more than I ever dreamed. I don’t think I would have made such a full recovery had it not been for strictly adhering to an anti-inflammatory diet and continuously supplementing with anti-inflammatory natural pain remedies. Today, I avoid all narcotics and over-the-counter pain medications like the plague.