In Pain? Reach for Natural Relief

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Risks of Over-The-Counter Drugs

Tylenol, Advil, and other over-the-counter pain killers are fast-working and convenient for treating the symptoms of an occasional headache, muscle strain, and the like, but they’re not always the best answer to long-term discomfort.

NSAIDs—nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs—including ibuprofen and naproxen have been associated with kidney, heart, and bone issues. Aspirin and acetaminophen can be better options but still present risks to stomach and liver function when used regularly at high doses.

Natural Pain Relief

Fortunately, there are a number of natural alternatives to nonprescription medications that people dealing with long-term or chronic conditions may want to consider. Here are some options to try.

Natural Supplements and Topicals for Pain Relief

Reduce Inflammation with Turmeric

The spice that adds the deep yellow color to curries is well-known for its anti-inflammatory properties. Part of the ginger family, turmeric comes in capsule form. Among conditions it’s used for are diabetes, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and psoriasis.

Lessen Pain and Inflammation with Omegas

Fatty acids found in fish oil, nuts, and seeds, omega 3s are anti-inflammatory and can lessen stiffness, joint and back pain, menstrual pain, and pain caused by conditions including rheumatoid arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, and heart disease. One study showed that people with rheumatoid arthritis who took a daily dose of cod-liver oil could cut back on NSAID use by one-third. In another study, two-thirds of participants with neck and back pain were able to replace their NSAIDs altogether with fish oil.

Decrease Arthritis Pain and More with Probiotics

Supplementing with probiotics may reduce inflammation and help with pain and bloating caused by gut disorders like irritable bowel syndrome. But their use extends beyond the digestive tract. The Arthritis Foundation notes that probiotics can be particularly helpful for people with inflammatory types of arthritis, who typically also suffer from inflammation of the intestinal tract. In a 2014 study, rheumatoid arthritis patients who received a daily supplement of the probiotic Lactobacillus casei showed significantly lower markers of inflammation than those given a placebo.

Desensitize Nerves with Capsaicin Cream

Another supplement used for arthritis pain, along with pain from shingles and neuropathy, capsaicin is derived from chili pepper. It works by desensitizing C-fibers, nerve receptors in the skin. It’s sold in ointments and creams for topical use. In a University of Oxford study, 40 percent of arthritis sufferers cut down their pain by half after using capsaicin cream for a month. Sixty percent of people with nerve pain cut their pain by half after two months of capsaicin application.

Other Supplements and Topicals for Pain Relief

Type of Pain Supplements
Back and Joint Pain
  • Devil’s Claw Root
  • Comfrey
  • Glucosamine and Chondroitin
Headaches
  • White Willow Bark
  • Boswellia
  • Feverfew
  • Butterbur
Arthritis
  • SAM-e
  • Glucosamine and Chondroitin
  • Boswellia
Fibromyalgia
  • Vitamin D
Wounds, Injuries, Swelling
  • Arnica

Lifestyle Changes to Manage or Reduce Chronic Pain

Other natural methods for dealing with chronic pain include massage, acupuncture, exercise (t’ai chi, yoga, and swimming are especially helpful), meditation, and good sleep hygiene.

Remember, if you’re dealing with pain, be sure to consult a healthcare practitioner for an appropriate diagnossis. Always check with your practitioner before adding a new supplement to your regimen, as some can interfere with medications or are not recommended for people with particular conditions or women who are pregnant or nursing.

Sources: 

“11 natural cures for pain” by Jordan Lite, www.Prevention.com, 11/17/11 

“Before you take ibuprofen, try this” by Amanda MacMillan, http://time.com, 5/18/17 

“Can supplements help with pain?” by Kara Mayer Robinson, www.WebMD.com, 10/28/17 

“The promise of probiotics for arthritis” by Jodi Helmer, www.arthritis.org, 4/15 

“Supplements for inflammation: Guide for natural pain management” by Shandley McMurray, https://UniversityHealthNews.com, 10/23/18

Contributor: 

Jane Eklund

Jane is a long-time resident of New Hampshire, where she holds an editorial position at Keene State College. She has a background in both literary and journalistic writing, including book reviews, poetry, and history.